Ahead of a new exhibition of Roger Mayne’s work that launches tomorrow at the Photographers’ Gallery, we present the book covers on which the pioneering photographer collaborated with Germano Facetti for Penguin during the 60s and 70s. Mayne was commissioned to provide striking photogram covers for the Penguin Modern Poets Series, along with Peter Barrett and Alan Spain, between 1962 – 1965 and also produced images that were used across a swathe of political paperbacks for Penguin and Pelican.
Roger, who died in 2014, was a self-taught photographer and is most famous for his work that documented life on London’s Southham Street in the 50s as it was prepared to be demolished as part of a slum clearance programme. His pictures of the young locals playing among the dereliction depicted the first generation to be identified as teenagers and captured a post-war moment of unprecedented social change.
Facetti and the Penguin design team used his images on the covers of books by the likes of George Orwell and Paul Foot, finding a link between the mood captured by Roger and the stance of the writers. The photographer spent a lot of time corresponding and conversing with painters, sculptors, architects and playwrights to ensure that his work was in touch with the critical discourses of the day – something evident in the immediacy and challenging natures of the cover imagery.
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