Mayne, Roger

Date of Birth:
1929

Roger Mayne is a British photographer renowned for his celebrated documentary series of life in the streets of North Kensington during the late 1950s.

Mayne was born in Cambridge. His strict academic upbringing led him to study chemistry at Balliol College, Oxford University. After graduating in 1951, Mayne avidly pursued his hobby of photography. His talent was acknowledged early, and his documentary photographs of a ballet production were published in Picture Post magazine.

Mayne immersed himself in photography, contributing work to exhibitions and building friendships with fellow photographers such as Nigel Henderson in Bethnal Green. Mentored by fine art photographer Hugo van Wadenoyen, Mayne became involved in the Combined Societies exhibitions. He made pictures in St Ives and Leeds, where in 1953 he achieved his first solo exhibition.

In 1954, Mayne came to live in west London to work as a freelance photographer. He took to documenting the streets and activities of the East End and, in 1956, an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts established his photographic reputation for social realism.

Mayne became interested in the streets closer to home, in North Kensington, at around this time he had already documented children playing, often in the bombsites left by the Blitz. The scenes in and around Southam Street, Notting Dale, now caught his attention.

Southam Street, with its large decaying terraced houses and shared lavatories was crammed with people living in crowded rooms. Many spent time outside in the street, creating a community environment that Mayne found attractive. With his Zeiss camera around his neck, Mayne befriended the residents. People became accustomed to his presence and oblivious to his snapping camera. He began to document the ordinary lives around him, shooting to capture instants in time that reflected the people's 'vitality'. He often focused on the children living the playful childhood he had not himself enjoyed.

Mayne photographed Southam Street and the vicinity for five years, creating a series of work that is evidently a 'labour of love' and which captured a developing Notting Hill.

In 1962, Mayne married the playwright and theatre director Ann Jellicoe. He continued freelancing and producing photographs of youth culture and architecture that were featured in publications such as Vogue, The Times Educational Supplement, and The Sunday Times. His photography turned from London to the Mediterranean, from exclusively black and white to some colour, and from other people's children to his own, who were born in 1966 and 1969.

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