Roger Bamber (1944-2022)

TopFoto Archive


It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of award-winning photojournalist, and friend, Roger Bamber, at the age of 78.

pd3006777 : The photographer Roger Bamber with Banksy graffiti

Roger Bamber’s copyrights have been acquired by TopFoto
click here  to see a selection of Roger Bamber’s work

Roger’s career spanned the golden age of photojournalism, and he was one of its brightest lights – though you wouldn’t have known it because he wore his genius modestly and without flash.

With an instinct for the surreal and irreverent, much of his best work has a subtle anarchic thread running through it, from Mrs Thatcher mistaking manure for clean straw, to a pantomime cow dancing at the brink of a cliff.

Roger Bamber’s work has inspired major exhibitions, front covers, even craft beer cans, and his life’s work is soon to be celebrated in a retrospective. Publisher Lucy Duckworth says: “Unicorn Publishing Group is proud and honoured to be publishing the book, Out of the Ordinary, in May 2023, featuring a large selection of Roger Bamber’s work from his extensive archive. It highlights a fantastic working life in pictures, with his anecdotes and stories collected in the captions.”

1385939​​​​​​​: Punch and Judy with Jermaine B. The picture was used by the Guardian to mark the start of the summer holiday season in 1992 and went on to win several awards. It was part of Bamber’s portfolio when he won Ilford Press Photographer of the Year for 1992 and was used for the Ilford poster campaign “That’s The Way To Do It!”

Exceptionally talented, Roger Bamber landed his first Fleet Street job on the same day he arrived in London with his student portfolio in 1965, having trained in design. In those days the Daily Mail was a broadsheet and they signed him up to cover news and features. He was just 20 years old.

Four years later in 1969 he was poached to join the launch team of Rupert Murdoch’s new idea – the tabloid Sun newspaper. He stayed for 19 years, covering war, rock and pop, hard news and features all over the world. He took one of the defining images of Freddie Mercury at Live Aid; he caught Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall laughing on the beach – laughing because Roger was being caught by a wave (he got the perfect shot despite the soaking); he was behind some of the most potent images from the years of the IRA bombing campaigns in London; and he hung out with David Bowie on tour.

PD1479231: Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall on the beach at St Peter’s Barbados. Jerry is pregnant with their first child. 5 December 1983

The tabloid formula became too constricting. In 1988 he left to go freelance and worked for The Independent, The Observer and a host of magazines. But perhaps most significantly he became a regular contributor to The Guardian which showcased his work so often that he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of Brighton “for his distinguished photo- journalism and the wealth of images of Brighton inspired by the city”.

Image number 1385939 was described by former Sun and News of the World picture editor and photographer Kenny Lennox as the picture of the millennium.

His work brought him a clutch of accolades, including twice Photographer of the Year (once for a Sun portfolio and once for a set of Guardian pictures – a double thus far not repeated by anyone else…), twice News Photographer of the Year and won Features and Arts Photographer of the Year at least 11 times.

1386152: Pregnant mothers in Brighton learning to relax during ante-natal classes in a swimming pool , 1991

The unifying element in all his work is his distinctive graphic style, wry humour and boundless originality, all of which worked across the broad range of publications he filled with punchy pictures which always made the reader look twice and linger.

In his last conversation with TopFoto’s Managing Partner, Flora Smith, he happened to mention the pre-digital “beg a neg” system. When a news photographer didn’t get a good enough shot they would “beg” a spare negative from another photographer so they didn’t have to go back to their editor empty handed.

Some begged negs more than others; Roger Bamber never needed to.

Roger Bamber, 31 August 1944-11 September 2022: award-winning photographer; lover of steam trains; life-long supporter of Leicester City; teller of long stories with a great joke landing at the end. Roger Bamber is survived by his wife Shan Lancaster.

1389899: David Bowie, May 1973
1385829: Mrs Thatcher getting
her hands dirty.  During an
election tour in Cornwall, May 1983
1387232: Freddie Mercury
of Queen steals the show
at Live Aid, Wembley, 1985

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