Brighton's Ace Photographer
From capturing Bowie in concert to recording the devastation of war, award-winning Brighton photographer Roger Bamber has seen his fair share of the action. Here, as we publish a selection of his work, he tells Julia Brandon about his life, c...
The interesting thing about interviewing a photographer is not knowing what to expect. After 40 years in the business, and still supplying photographs to broadsheets on a weekly basis (predominantly The Guardian) plenty of people have an opinion on the work of Roger Bamber, but not necessarily on the person. "I'm ancient," he said, describing himself over the phone beforehand. "I'm really tall...gangly...and I've grey hair. Oh, and I'll have a camera over my shoulder!"
We were scheduled to meet for tea at the Grand Hotel, which is located on Brighton seafront, and famous for having been bombed by the IRA in 1984. The target had been a Conservative party conference, rather than the hotel itself, but damage to the building's architecture, as well as a number of MP's lives, had been severe. "I was away when that happened," says Roger, with a hint of irony. "None of the local guys got a look in, as all the paparazzi hanging about for the conference were there on site already. It's always the way - same happened when the West pier burnt down. I got a call telling me to get down there quickly as the pier was on fire, and I said 'I can't, I'm in Geneva!'"
Dangerous workHowever, with a career that has spanned the majority of tabloid and broadsheet papers, including The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Guardian, Roger has experienced his fair share of IRA action and international warfare. "I covered a lot of the terrorist bombings that happened in both Ireland and London in the 60s, and yeah, there were some hairy moments, but back then, the press wasn't a target like it is now. That aspect alone makes covering international news a very different job these days to what it was when I did it - now the danger of the job attracts adrenalin junkies."
Sitting in the tea-rooms today though, overlooking the sea, the building bears no scars from the devastation of twenty years ago, and Roger has the comforts of red wine and boyhood memories on his mind. "I can remember the thrill of standing on windy platforms as a child in short trousers watching the trains go past," he says smiling. "I loved the atmosphere and allure of steam trains, and I took pictures with my Brownie Crester II Kodak camera that had a shutter speed of a 40th of a second, so my first ever photos were a collection of assorted colours and blurs! Nothing amazing, but enough to give me an inkling that it was something I enjoyed."
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