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Nigel Barker: I Never Knew Photography ‘Could Be A Career’

Wed, March 12, 2014 2:11pm EDT by Katrina Mitzeliotis 4 Comments
Nigel Barker The Face
Courtesy of Oxygen

‘The Face’ host opened up in an exclusive open letter — see what he had to say about his career!

I have always been interested in photography, but growing up it never dawned on me that it could be a career. In high school, I used to take photos of my friends and school sporting events. In fact, it was my biology teacher who taught me to print black and white prints when I was 14 years old. At the very same high school called Bryanston, I studied the sciences, as well as fashion design, tailoring and weaving! That lead to my mum entering me into a televised model search competition in England called The Clothes Show. I was lucky enough to get selected for the show, but didn’t win. I made it to the final four and secured a contract with Select models in London.

<h3Nigel Barker ‘The Face’ Host Open Letter:

It was as a model in the early 1990s that I really started to understand fashion photography. At the shoots, I would soak up the lighting techniques and personal style of every photographer that shot me. I would often draw out the lighting, or make mental notes of where all the equipment was in relation to me on the set. Then when I saw the shots in a magazine, I would go back to my notes and understand what kind of lighting resulted in what kind of photo. Lighting techniques were one thing, but often more important was the manner in which a photographer worked with the subject, and how they provoked you to react or not. Although I never assisted another photographer in my career, I feel like I interned in my own way for hundreds of top working photographers from all around the world. It was in the mid-1990s that the look and style of fashion was changing from the Amazonian, curvaceous models of the extravagant 80s, toward a grungier, androgynous, heroin chic look, which definitely wasn’t the model me! It was however, the push I needed to transition from one side of the lens to the

My girlfriend, Crissy, (who would later become my wife), and her twin sister became my muses. Every shoot they would return from Milan, Paris, London and New York, and I would be waiting at home to take advantage of the professional makeup and hair styles they came home wearing. We would have impromptu photo shoots and over the next few years I honed my eye and style. In 1996 we moved to New York City and I opened Studio NB. Once again utilizing my model background, I went to the model agencies in the city and offered my services as a test photographer. Understanding exactly what models needed for their portfolios and empathizing with them as I used to be a model too. It wasn’t long before I was shooting for all the major agencies in the city. This culminated in Click Models commissioning me to shoot the whole agency for an agency model book. I came up with the idea of painting all the models silver from head to toe and shot everybody in dramatic poses in B&W with the slogan ClickSilver “Every model has a time to shine.”

For the launch of the book, Click Models threw a big party and invited magazine editors and clients. Luckily for me, a celebrated fashion stylist called Timothy Reukauf and the fabulous editor of Paper magazine, Mickey Boardman, took a liking to my work and I walked away with my first commissioned fashion story for Paper magazine. That 14-page story launched my career from a test photographer to fashion photographer with Interview magazine booking me next and numerous fashion houses and advertisers following suit.

For the next few years I made a name for myself in the city that never sleeps and it was one fateful day that a fashion stylist by the name of Nole Marin, whom I worked with on many different magazines, suggested I try to shoot for this new fun, cult TV show called America’s Next Top Model. I remember my good friend Timothy Reukauf convinced me to buy a pair of bright red Miu Miu shoes to wear to the interview, which I thought was crazy. However, during the casting process at Mr. Jay Manual’s house with the Emmy-award winning producer Anthony Dominici present, they not only liked my photographs, but they also loved my shoes! For a few weeks I heard nothing and then out of the blue I received a call from Los Angeles. The ANTM producers invited me to not only be a photographer on their show, but also become a permanent judge! Of course, I jumped at the opportunity and 12 years later I am the host of The Face alongside supermodel Naomi Campbell. And as they say, the rest is history!

Nigel Barker

Be sure to tune in TONIGHT, Mar. 5, to watch The Face on Oxygen at 10/9c — and check back next week for another open letter from the coaches!

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