Roger Mayne’s most heralded body of work was generated during the five years (1956-61) he spent photographing the now demolished Southam Street in West London (W10). His photographs of working class London, teddy boys, jiving girls, and kids playing football in the street have influenced generations of photographers in Great Britain. Mayne’s honest and empathetic approach to photography is evident in the candid response from his subjects.
In addition to his images of teddy boys, jiving girls, and kids playing football in Southam Street, Mayne also documented the dilapidated buildings and urban decay in this neighborhood of West London and similar working class neighborhoods in Leeds, Rotherhithe, and Wapping. These spare cityscapes express the anxiety that though the coming modernization of London would provide better housing and cleaner streets, it would also mark the end of community life in the street. During his travels abroad in the Mediterranean and later the East, Mayne photographed wherever he found vibrant street life continuing to exist. His choice to make some large scale prints was uncommon for the time and emphasized the immediacy of his expression.