Picture Editor and photographer, Kenny Lennox described Punch Line by Roger Bamber as the picture of the millennium.
Brighton’s Punch-and-Judy man Sergeant Stone was setting up shop in readiness for the school holidays when four year old Jermaine Briffa wandered along the deserted beach with his father and provided puppeteer him with a small but enthusiastic audience. The child was so enthralled with his one-to-one with Mr Punch, that he totally ignored a photographer bearing down on him clicking away, and telling Sgt. Stone to keep the banter going. Michael Stone’s tent and puppets are now on display at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
Briffa was just four when he provided a small but enthusiastic audience as the Brighton Punch and Judy man set up, ready for the school holidays. The child was so engrossed in his one-to-one conversation with Mr Punch, he ignored Roger Bamber bearing down on him with an 18mm lens.
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!” Ten years later, Jermaine’s mother wrote to the Guardian to say that the picture had come to mean something very special to her.
She said: “Shortly after the picture was taken Jermaine was taken ill with encephalitis. He was in hospital for a further three weeks whilst he re-learnt how to eat, drink, talk and walk. The following seven years have been a constant battle for Jermaine against severe migraine attacks and epilepsy but throughout all if this he has always tried his best. He is now 12 years old getting on 20! I am writing as a very proud mother; proud that my son has coped so well with his illness and proud that he is in such an emotional photograph.
Photographs from a career that spans the golden age of photojournalism and 2020 marks Roger Bamber’s 55th year as a leading photojournalist.
He landed his first Fleet Street job on the day he arrived in London with his portfolio in 1965. In those days the Daily Mail was a broadsheet and they signed him up to cover news and features. He was 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.
The tabloid formula became far too constricting. In 1988 he left to go freelance and worked for The Observer, The Independent and a host of magazines. But most importantly he became a regular contributor to The Guardian which showcased his work so regularly that he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of Brighton “for his distinguished photojournalism and the wealth of images of Brighton inspired by the city”.
His work has 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 but he has forgotten how many times Features Photographer of the Year and Arts Photographer of the Year but knows it is more than 11.
The unifying element in all his work is his distinctive graphic style, wry humour and boundless originality,
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