Photographer Roger Mayne dies

British documentary photographer Roger Mayne, best known for his images of post-war London street life, dies

Gemma Padley — 11 June 2014

Self Portrait, 1956 © Roger MayneChildren on the Road, Southam Street, 1956 © Roger MayneScreaming child, Southam Street, 1956 © Roger Mayne

Roger Mayne, who was best known for his documentary images of street life in 1950s and ’60s London, has died, aged 85. Mayne suffered a heart attack and passed away on Saturday 07 June. He is survived by his wife Ann Jellicoe, daughter Katkin and son Tom.

Tributes have been paid by those who worked with or knew him, including Michael Pritchard, director general at the Royal Photographic Society, Tom Gitterman of Mayne’s New York gallery, and bookseller Bernard Quaritch, which represents the photographer’s work in the UK.

“Roger’s seminal body of work on the working class neighborhoods of London in the 1950s and early 1960s made him one of the most important post-war British photographers,” wrote Gitterman in a press statement published by British Photographic History. “Photography was a way for Mayne to connect with people and explore the world around him. Mayne’s honest and empathetic approach to photography is evident in the candid response from his subjects and has influenced generations of photographers… It has been an honour and a pleasure to represent Roger,” he added. “My relationship with him has affected me greatly, always reminding me to be as true to others as I am to myself. I will miss him.”

Mayne was born in Cambridge in 1929 and became interested in photography while studying chemistry at Balliol College, Oxford University, from 1947-1951. His work was published in Picture Post in the early 1950s, and in newspapers and magazines such as Vogue and The Observer, during his long career as a freelance photographer.

Mayne is best known for his images of post-war London; in particular, the everyday life of Southam Street, a working class area of West London, which he photographed from 1956 to the early 1960s. His name “has become synonymous with street photography, particularly his shots of disadvantaged children in the still war-ravaged 1950s London”, BJP wrote in an article published on 10 June 2009.

Mayne’s work was exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions throughout his life, including the ICA (1956), The Photographers’ Gallery (1974), the Victoria & Albert Museum (1986), the National Portrait Gallery (2004) and Tate Britain (2007), as part of the exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain.

His work has been acquired by many museums and institutions, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of London, among others. 

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Roger Mayne…” wrote Bernard Quaritch on its website. “He will be greatly missed. We have had the great honour of representing him and exploring the world through his photographs. The sensitivity with which he captured people and moments, and his legacy of photographs portraying Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, has cemented him as one of the great post-war British photographers.”

A full obituary will appear in the July issue of BJP, on sale from Wednesday 02 July.

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This article was amended on 11 June. The original article stated Roger Mayne was 84 when he died; he was in fact 85.