Out of the Ordinary

Roger was born in 1944 and raised in Leicester close to the Great Central Line - which led to his life-long fascination in steam engines. He moved to his beloved Brighton in the 1970s and lived there with his wife Shân Lancaster up to his death in 2022. 

Roger took an early interest in press photography during his paper round, when he would apparently take the time to study the featured photographs and ask himself why they were selected. Years later he would be supplying his own photographs to the Editors of the Mail, the Sun, and later The Guardian and other national newspapers as a fully paid up and very successful Fleet Street photographer. The Land Rover he bought later in life even included ‘PAP' in its registration mark! 

Many of his newspaper photos became iconic images - receiving high acclaim and awards. For example, in 1974 following the IRA bombing of the London Old Bailey Law Courts, his photo of a blood-stained Barrister being led out with his shirt ripped open earned him 'Photographer of the Year'. Another of his iconic photos was that of an appalled Margaret Thatcher at a farm in Cornwall where she posed for a photo opportunity - clutching what she thought was golden straw, only to find the straw had been placed to hide a fresh pile of manure. HIs instinctive timing and composition made him a ‘picture editor's dream'.

Roger had a reputation for going the extra mile (or miles!) on his commissions. Sometimes putting himself and others in awkward and painful positions to get the shot he knew were to be achieved. It seems he would employ this habit in much of his work and it suddenly came to me that this drive for staying longer, taking more was informed in all his photography and why his best work contains ideas that make the difference between ordinary and beyond. The need to delight a stressed Picture Editor must have been a high achieving habit to form . It is a lesson for all photographers to bear in mind, could you have got a slightly better image, something extraordinary instead of just very good, by not settling too quickly? For example he didn't just take a mundane photo of the Brighton Toy Museum - he got the curator to stare down the camera barrel from the end of the miniature station - you have to see it - and all his work, to realise why his photography was so admired.

In 1999, Roger was selected by Brighton and Hove Council to provide images that helped Brighton achieve City status.

Sadly I never knowingly met Roger. I would have loved to have talked about our mutual love of steam trains, Bowie, photography and Brighton. In a small part, I have made up some lost time by recently attending some fascinating talks by those who knew and worked with him. I have of course visited the 'Out of the Ordinary' exhibition at the Brighton Museum (several times!)- which runs up to 3rd September 2023. In fact I was almost the first through the door when it opened! This exhibition is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in Photography. Large scale prints of his photos of trains, Brighton, A-list celebrities etc., are on show as are some fascinating artefacts such as his press passes and a 'gold' Nikon Camera - see below.

He held an ambition to publish a book of his life work and an exhibition (both called 'Out of the Ordinary'), asking fellow Brighton Photographer Alex Bamford to help him put this together. Although Roger did not survive to see this book or his exhibition, those around him made sure they both happened. 

One of the Brighton buses now carries his name, a worthy reflection of his important place in Brighton and Hove’s story.

Brighton Bus bearing Roger Bamber's name
Mauv Kennedy's talk about working with Roger Bamber

Maev Kennedy talk

Maev worked as a journalist alongside Roger for many years, enduring his life-long habit of not leaving the location until he was sure he got the shot that would make the papers. Her talk was fascinating and at times very funny!

A Greek Merchant ship Athina B  got stranded oin Brighton beach on January 21, 1980. Maev recounted the time Roger kept them both in very uncomfortable January temperatures until he was satisfied he had 'the shot'.

Roger's Gold Nikon

The man with the Golden Nikon!

When Roger was stationed on Saddleworth Moor for 2 weeks whilst waiting for Moira Hindley to point out graves (it wasn’t all glamour! and she never did) a bored Roger picked at his already worn Nikon clean of paint to reveal an amazing gold coloured casing underneath, which he later encouraged further with Brasso!