The Street Photographs of Roger Mayne

Roger Mayne, coming in on the train to Paddington from the suburbs, saw Southam Street and realized that these were the 'slums' of which he had only heard. They had a decaying splendour and sense of space which was to bring him back to photograph them again and again, until they were demolished in 1968-69 and replaced by Adair Street and Hazelwood Crescent, four-floor blocks and a fourteen storey tower.

Roger Mayne photographed Southam Street, Kensal Town, from 1956-61, creating a record of a London street probably unequaled anywhere. There are 1,400 negatives of street life, revealing customs, behaviour, dress, conditions and emotions. His photographs were to appeared in exhibitions, on the covers of books, in the Observer and Sunday Times, and many magazines from Queen and Vogue, to Universities and Left Review.


Southam Street

In 1986 the Victoria & Albert Museum held an exhibition of the Southam Street photographs and published an excellent catalogue. Many of the men and women who were children in the photographs wrote to the museum describing their lives, memories and reactions. These letters are stored in the Kensington Local History Archive at the Central Library, Philmore Walk, W8, where they form part of the record of an area swept away in 1968-69 by the building of Westway.1

Although not photographed, London was full of decayed areas like this, overcrowded, ramshackle and in need of millions of pounds worth of repair.


Footnote

  1. The film `Notting Hill' showed not one black face. An important side of Roger Mayne' work had been airbrushed out of history.

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Updated January 23, 2011