“Out of the ordinary The career and life of Roger Bamber

Bamber did not just put people in uncomfortable positions. He was willing to do it to himself, too, when it meant taking an image that would remain in the minds of people. Not only are his photos that were taken from the top bridges like the Severn as well as the Clifton Suspension bridges but there is also one shot taken in the course of an altitude test made by microlite fanatic Rod Jenkins. It wasn’t until Roger was able to lose a roll of 36 exposure film to the winds that he realized that his pilot had pushed the lawnmowers with wings that were higher than the record-breaking attempt.

It is easy to believe that someone who shot as many films as he did, and with just the tiniest of adjustments between frames, shows an insecurity about their ability to see. However, for Roger, this was the opposite. Roger had a complete belief in his method of working and a definite idea that his reaction to whatever was happening in front of him could be translated into film with extreme accuracy. When referring to one of the images in the show, Shan says, “On the contact sheet, there’s a sequence of similar ones, but there’s a big circle around one. Once he’d taken it, he knew that he’d taken the moment.

The shift to color

Roger is naturally well-known for his black-and-white artwork. If there’s a particular design style that is frequently seen in his work, it’s silhouette, which is a way to reminisce about his background in graphic design and drawing. In numerous ways, he’d analyze a scene, not just for the object the photographer was capturing and the form it took within the frame. It didn’t matter if the subject was a work of art or a rock star.

In his time, the newspaper industry went from monochrome to color and later to digital. I asked Shan whether monochrome was the place his heart was or if he really didn’t care about it. Her answer is unambiguous: “Oh, he really didn’t mind. He was extremely shocked to learn of the need to change his color scheme and was convinced that it would be a must to reconsider everything. Also, going digital, too, was an enormous leap. There were a few periods when the man had to adapt to new technology. It was challenging, and he almost was in a state of panic. Once he was able to shift gears, he was able to adapt to it. And obviously, the best part was that he excelled at it.’

It was in part due to the help of the many close acquaintances he made throughout his career that allowed him to succeed in his transition, as Shan says. He was a gentleman in the world,’ she says. “A lot are Fleet Street photographers are absolutely impossible to be around – and they should – because they are aware of their position and take local photography seriously and with great disdain, but Roger was a gentleman to everyone and treated them as friend. He became friends with all local photographers and they reacted to him and assisted. If he’d acted more arrogant or “Fleet Streety”, they’d likely have told him, “You sink or swim, sunshine”.’

Unfortunately, near the final days of his life, Roger was ill and began to find it increasingly painful to walk. The stroke caused him to lose his balance as well as the sight in one eye. The lockdown was also a challenge for someone whose entire life revolved around social interactions, and Shan sketches a picture of an angry man who would stand on the front steps of the front garden of their home and chat with anyone who came by.

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