John Bamber: The Fine Art of Wedding Photography
John Bamber, along with his wife Lindsey, operate Bamber Photography based in Dayton, Tennessee. A graduate of Belmont University with a BFA in Photography, John also spent a year abroad studying at L’Ecole Regionale Des Beaux-Arts in Angers, France. John also recently spent six months in Arles where he was awarded a residency at France’s prestigious Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Photographie. John, who usually uses a Canon system, had the chance to try out the Leica S2 to shoot a wedding and a subject closer to his heart, his two-year old son Jack. We had a chance to talk with John about his passion for photography and his experience using the Leica S2.
Q: How would you describe your main photographic genre?
A: My wife and I work together photographing weddings and our style is a blend of many things. It’s simple, elegant, modern, loose, open and hopefully fun for our subjects. We try and get to know our subjects so that we’re actually capturing them in an authentic manner, rather than simply attempting to mould them into something else.
Q: Were you a serious enthusiast before becoming a full-time professional?
A: I’m not really sure when I made the transition to being a pro photographer, but it definitely came early. From the time I was 19 in college, it has been my primary means of support. Back then I was shooting B&W film and doing all of the darkroom work for my shoots, which were small music promo gigs and portraiture.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography as a fine art or a form of creative expression?
A: I blew out my knee playing soccer at 17, but I still wanted to travel with my team. My coach said that they only way I could travel would be to do something useful, so I started shooting soccer games for the school newspaper. That’s when I began to realize that photography was something more than just snapping pictures.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self-taught. Was there a photographer or style of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
A: I did have a formal education in photography, culminating in a BFA in Photography from Belmont University. I also did a year abroad in Angers, France at a small art school. The funny thing about a BFA is I can certainly judge a print and I am knowledgeable about the history of photography, but this didn’t necessarily give me any means of making a living besides pulling shots at Starbucks! Most of the real photographic knowledge has come in gradually over the years, through simply going out and shooting and from years of lugging lights around for other photographers as a commercial assistant. I decided to go back for some Masters-level classes, and had an amazing six months as a Resident at France’s prestigious École Nationale Superiéure de la Photographie in Arles. There are too many inspiring photographers to name, but one whose work has continually encouraged me to raise the bar is Mark Tucker.
Q: Does your personal work include any subjects or genres aside from wedding photography?
A: Definitely. I’ve learned not to specialize in too many things (because then I would no longer be specializing haha), but I do shoot some commercial work for hospitals, etc. I also have some personal projects I’m always doing: a macro project called Slice, as well as some night work. Ever since becoming a father two years ago, I’ve been obsessively photographing my son, Jack.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: Ever since seeing the first M-series camera I’ve been interested, and while studying the history of photography in college, it always seemed like the photojournalists who were taking photographs rather than just pictures were always using Leicas. I’ve been following along with news about the S2 ever since it was introduced at Photokina in 2008. What intrigues me about the S2 is that it has been designed from the ground up as a high-performance digital machine. It’s almost too amazing to just call it a camera.
Q: Can you tell us something about your experience shooting with the S2?
A: It was a revelation. My hands have been using a different camera system for more than a decade, but they didn’t seem to have any problem whatsoever in quickly adapting to the feel of this amazing tool. I almost always shoot with the largest aperture I can: wide open with each lens. On my 35mm system, even my 20/10 vision can’t always tell when the lenses are in focus and I’ve been continuously and grossly over-shooting because I simply don’t trust the AF system on my Canon. While the S2 doesn’t sport 45 auto-focus points, it does have one. That ONE is all that I needed because it is extremely accurate. Also, because of the larger sensor, mirror and viewfinder, I was more confident in the Leica S2′s focus because there was more to see. Wide open, almost all of the time! As compared to using a 35mm DSLR system, when shooting the S2, I shot fewer images, but was more confident of the fine-tuned focus at wide-open apertures. In addition, all of those images were all of a superbly higher quality, both in terms of resolution and sharpness.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography and what does photography mean to you?
A: I think that my approach is always one of elemental simplicity and I always endeavor to deliver images that are both authentic and creative. A consistency in style is important, but a respectful and truthful rendering of my subject matter is paramount. Photography means so much to me because it is so much more than simply seeking and photographing what is beautiful. It also entails a profound responsibility. That responsibility was made so apparent to me last fall, as I photographed a portrait session for one of my extended family members. I took the best images that I possibly could have, searching for the light, engaging his sense of humor, bringing out his personality. Five days later, as I was [finally] sitting down to edit the images, I got a call saying that he had tragically lost his life in a car accident. So the first time that these photographs were ever seen wasn’t on a Facebook profile, or from someone’s wallet, it was on the wall of a funeral home. I think that we can tend to forget just how fleeting life itself can be and simply how powerful a photograph is for preserving our memories – of events in life, of beauty and of the people and things that we love.
-Leica Internet Team