Long before the world’s recent obsession with photography thanks to apps like Instagram, internationally renowned photographer Nigel Barker had already made a name for himself as an iconic fashion photographer with his work appearing everywhere from GQ to Town and Country. He got his career start in fashion as a model but Barker has been in the photography industry for over 20 years. He served 17 seasons as a photographer and judge on the hit TV show, America’s Next Top Model. He also hosted a modeling competition series on Oxygen Network with Naomi Campbell, The Face.
Photography Graduates to the Small Screen
Barker’s massive following of fans are in luck. He has recently collaborated with Adorama (one of the world’s largest photography, video, audio and computer retailers for more than 40 years) to create an exciting and educational new series, Top Photographer with Nigel Barker, that stars a variety of tastemakers, including supermodel Coco Rocha, fashion editor Joe Zee, sports journalist Ben Lyons, designer Pamella Roland, the social media masters behind Beautiful Destinations Jeremy and Tom Jauncey, and world renowned photographers David Bergman and Emily Soto to help Adorama and Nigel Barker seek out today’s Top Photographer. New shows will air on Tuesdays starting November 1st on AdoramaTV. The finale will conclude with the final two contestants competing for the title and the grand prize, valued at $50k, which includes a photography equipment package as well as a photo exhibition event in New York City hosted by Nigel Barker. You can watch the first episode here.
We got treated to an exclusive screening of the first episode where contestants were challenged to photograph Miles Chamley-Watson (US Olympic fencer) and can’t wait to see what happens in the next challenge with the talented photographers competing in the challenge to earn the “top photographer” title. After the viewing, we sat down with Barker for an exclusive interview!
It’s Not a Popularity Contest
Sari Beth Rosenberg: What do you think separates a good photograph from an outstanding one?
Nigel Barker: You can get a million likes on Instagram but that doesn’t necessarily equal an iconic image. There are photographs that are considered brilliant by photography standards but they don’t get millions of likes. Brilliance does not equal popularity and being iconic does not mean that you are always in fashion. Being on trend and in fashion is one thing that’s cool for the moment. However, just like a magazine is there for a month and then you throw it in the trash can, every once in awhile there are certain pictures you rip out and you frame and keep. They are the images that capture iconic moments and those are the hardest photos to create and capture. They come from within and, I mentioned in the show, about having a narrative in a picture. Those are the best pictures and they aren’t always the prettiest but they do have that story. Social media is part photograph and part story. If you can have a great picture that doesn’t need to have a story underneath explaining it, then you’ve got a great picture.
Cameras Are Our New Pencils
Sari Beth Rosenberg: What did you learn the most from working with the young talent on the show?
Nigel Barker: I’ve been wanting to do this for while. I’m always having photographers emailing me on a daily basis on Facebook, Instagram or through direct messaging. Everyone has a fascination with with photography now and they all want to be a photographer. I understand, it’s the greatest job. A huge part of the learning experience is that you have a lot of these young people out there who have millions of followers on social media. In fact, some of those people on the show have 3 or 4 times the following that I do. It’s interesting to observe (and when you watch the show you will see it for yourself) what happens when they are given a real camera. However, the rules are changing. Some people hold a pencil differently: I hold it traditionally yet my son holds it in a really unusual way but he writes and draws really beautifully. Using the analogy of the pencil, the camera is the new tool. It’s essentially our new pencil. We no longer write letters but we do take pictures. It is the new way of expressing ourselves and we are at a brand new time in history.
In A Class By Itself
Sari Beth Rosenberg: Where do you see the future of photography?
Nigel Barker: I do think there’s going to be a time over the next 5 years, which is soon, and we are going to see a huge shift in people’s love of photography. We can name the top 10 photographers and there’s really only 100 that anyone has ever heard of so we are just at the tip of the iceberg. What we are going to see now is that people are really loving it, knowing it, hanging it in their homes, appreciating it, and it being elevated to a true form of art for the first time.