Not only is noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker incredibly talented (and amazingly good looking), he’s also a hopeless romantic. Audra Roslani speaks to him about his new book, Models of Influence and being married to the incredibly beautiful Cristen Chin Barker.
You have a very exciting career, and wear many hats; from modelling, to noted photographer, filmmaker and spokesperson for various causes. Who or what would you say has influenced your career?
Everybody and everything has influenced and continues to influence my career and my life in general. There are of course different driving forces in control at specific times in one’s life but the overarching influencer has to be Crissy, my wife. We met in Milan, Italy over twenty years ago and I was immediately smitten. I called my mother the day I met her to say that I had met the girl of
my dreams and that I was destined to marry her! My mum told me I was crazy and I didn’t tell Crissy as she would definitely have thought I was crazy too, but I have always been a hopeless romantic and very passionate with everything I am interested in. It was Crissy and her sister Kimmy (they are identical twins) to some extent as well whom I honed my eye on as a photographer back in the day. Both were modeling in Milan very successfully for Italian Vogue etc, and they would come back from elaborate shoots with incredible hair and make-up applied to their perfect features, which I took advantage of before they washed away the artistry. Over the next few years and many different cities I chased these ladies constantly photographing them and their friends and built up a portfolio ending up in NYC in the mid-Nineties. It was at that time I transitioned into becoming a photographer full time and Crissy worked tirelessly by my side 7 days a week at all hours as we built up Studio NB in the now famed Meat Packing District.
What inspired you to put together your book, Models of Influence?
After over two decades in the business and having had the honor and pleasure of working with many of the world’s greatest names in fashion, I felt compelled to tell the story of many of these extraordinary women. Women who weren’t simply successful models but true super models. Women who transcended the model and fashion world and affected the world at large.
Your book puts the spotlight on influential models from the 1940s. Over time, we’re seeing the everchanging face of ‘Beauty’ with dynamic new models such as Viktoria Modesta, Chantelle Brown-Young and Moffy. What are your thoughts on these new faces of fashion?
The face of the modeling world has been ever changing since its inception in the early 1940’s. Back then the people clamoured for glamour and perfection in part because of worldwide weariness and depression left over from World War II. Sick of food rationing we wanted opulence and a return to better times and the models, many of them the daughters of well to do families who had suffered during the war epitomised that debutante look that so many dreamt of. Flash forward to today and yes we are still at war and times are very difficult for many the world over but we are also a far more educated and worldly society, in large part because of the internet and social media. Fashion, unlike in the 1940’s, is no longer just for the wealthy but a way we all identify who we are and the subject of beauty is no longer cookie cutter and certainly not black or white, but rather the many shades of grey in between. The successful models of any given era have always been relatable at that moment; the truly successful models are the ones who remain relevant as the years go by and continue to inspire us to dream.
For more on Nigel Barker and his life as a fashion photographer and husband, grab the February 2015 issue!