Nigel Barker, noted fashion photographer and all around charming fellow, sat down with A Drink With at Two Zero Three to talk fashion, photography and which model recently texted him. Read the full interview.
ADW: WE READ THAT YOU’RE AN AVID WINE COLLECTOR, SO TWO ZERO THERE IS BRINGING OUT A BOTTLE OF THE WILLIAM FÈVRE CHABLIS.
NB: A little Chablis in the morning, why not?
ADW: YOU’RE A WORLD-RENOWNED FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER WHO HAS BEEN IN THE INDUSTRY 20+ YEARS. IF WE WERE TO LOOK IN YOUR PHONE RIGHT NOW, WHAT SUPERMODEL WOULD WE FIND A TEXT FROM?
NB: I have a text from Anne V from just a couple of days ago. You know, I’m in touch with many of these ladies just for work more than anything, but socially we are friends with many of them too. I’ve become good friends with Christy Turlington.
ADW: IN YOUR NEW BOOK, “MODELS OF INFLUENCE: FIFTY WOMEN WHO RESET THE COURSE OF FASHION”, YOU SPOTLIGHT LEGENDARY SUPERMODELS. CAN YOU PICK A FAVORITE?
NB:I narrowed it down from almost 200 women that I originally picked to the 50 who were the trailblazers and pioneers for me over the past 75 years, from the 1940s onwards. We highlight certain women from every decade who really helped shape the way we see fashion and beauty, changed pop culture and helped direct us. From Naomi Sims who was the very first African-American woman on the cover of a magazine and on a commercial in the 60s to people like Christie Brinkley who depicts the 80s and her incredible healthiness and body in the Sports Illustrated covers she did, we go through the decades. We talk about Elle Macpherson, the very first model to sign a license deal in 1989 with Elle Macpherson Intimates that is now a $65 million business, and how she helped shape the business model for supermodels.
ADW: IS THERE A COMMON THREAD BETWEEN ALL OF THE LEADING LADIES? AND WHY WAS THIS STORY SO IMPORTANT TO YOU TO SHARE?
NB: When you think of fashion you think of models. Often times models get a hard wrap, “Oh, you’re born pretty. Born lucky, everything was easy for you,” but the story for many of them—and this is [my view from] working with Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Twiggie, Janice Dickinson, these extraordinary women—is that it isn’t as simple as you think. It didn’t just happen overnight. There were struggles or there were issues or there was criticism from the press. People can be tough, especially when you’re up on a pedestal as many supermodels are. People are often there to try to knock you down, so this book was really a tribute to the extraordinary women who I had met and really to these wonderful ladies who I feel in many respects don’t always get the respect that they require. When you really realize what they did for the women’s movement, for women’s liberation and for beauty all around [it’s incredible]. There are full-figured beautiful women like Sophie Dahl in the book to the Kate Uptons of the world. Sophie was the very first full-figured model to do major high fashion. We talk about social media and the impact of that on fashion as well. We try and hit on all of those elements in each era.
ADW: IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE IT TODAY, BUT YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT HOW YOUR LOOK CAN SOMETIMES BE DESCRIBED AS A FASHION MULLET. CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
NB: I’m not doing it today, you’re right! If I’m at work I do that. As a photographer I’m on my knees or I’m laying on the ground to get the shot. You can’t wear a suit because you’ll just destroy it, but when you walk into the studio and you’re dealing with a client there’s an element of professionalism [needed]. So, I combined the look. I’ll do cargo pants on the bottom with my sneakers and on top I’ll wear a dress shirt with a suit jacket. I’m sort of business on top, party on the bottom. As soon as I get in I say, “Hi,” to the client, take my jacket off, hang it on a c-stand, roll my sleeves up and I’m ready to go!