Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
BPH has just learnt that Roger Mayne died of a heart attached on Saturday, 7 June. A fuller obituary will be published later today. BPH sends its condolences to his wife Ann Jellicoe, their daughter Katkin and son Tom.
Tom Gitterman of his New York Gallery wrote in an email:
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.
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.
Though his talent as a photographer was recognized early in his career, it was his solo exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum in 1986 and the subsequent use of his images on album covers and concert backdrops for the musician Morrissey in the 1990s that renewed interest in his work. Thanks to the early support from his first dealer, Zelda Cheatle and Mark Haworth-Booth, former curator of photography at The Victoria and Albert Museum, and the continual support of my colleague Lindsey Stewart at Quaritch, his dealer in London, Mayne’s photographs are revered and included in numerous private and institutional collections worldwide. Most recently, Mayne’s work was featured in Art of the ‘60s at the Tate Britain in 2004, Making History at the Tate Liverpool in 2006, How We Are: Photographing Britain at the Tate Britain in 2007 and Roger Mayne: Aspects of A Great Photographer at the Victoria Gallery, Bath in 2013.
Mayne first became interested in photography while studying chemistry at Balliol College, Oxford University from 1947-1951. In 1953 he developed an interest in the St. Ives School, which embraced the abstract avant-garde movement, and became friendly with the painters Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Roger Hilton. Mayne consciously printed with high contrast to emphasize the formal qualities in his work and increased the scale of his prints to have a further dialogue with the painting of the time.
In 1954 Mayne moved to London to become a photographer, and in 1956 he discovered Southam Street. It was a street in a working class neighborhood of West London that would be demolished to make room for high-rise apartments. During the five years Mayne photographed there, it was full of energy: teddy boys, jiving girls, and kids playing in the street. Mayne also photographed other streets of West London and similar working class neighborhoods in Britain. For Mayne even the empty streets and dilapidated buildings had “a kind of decaying splendor.” Though modernization ended community life in the streets, Mayne’s work preserves the spirit of that time. By 1959 Mayne’s images were so indicative of this period that Vogue used them to illustrate teenage styles. Colin MacInnes used one of his images on the cover of Absolute Beginners, a novel told in the first person by a teenage freelance photographer living in West London that commented on the youth culture of the time.
Throughout this period Mayne worked as a freelance photographer and his photographs were reproduced regularly in magazines and newspapers. His work was included in group exhibitions at the Combined Societies, a progressive group of local photographic societies in Britain that broke away from the Royal Photographic Society. His work was also included in Otto Steinert’s Subjektive Fotografie in Germany, a series of group exhibitions and books of international photography that emphasized personal expression and the aesthetic potential of the medium. Mayne had solo exhibitions in 1956 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. As early as 1956-57 the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago acquired his work.
It has been an honor and a pleasure to represent Roger. 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.
An obituary was published in The Guardian newspaper: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/13/roger-mayne
Image top: © Roger Mayne, Self-Portrait, 1956; Above: Edinburgh; Courtesy: Quaritch.
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