Nigel Barker is an internationally renowned photographer, model, entrepreneur, TV star and author. You’ve seen him as a judge and photographer for 18 seasons on America’s Next Top Model, starring alongside Naomi Campbell on The Face, and as the host of Top Photographer. His entrepreneurial pursuits include having his own furniture line with Art Van Furniture, being the Artistic Director of the menswear brand Flag & Anthem, and co-founding the NYC gym, The Dog Pound. Oh yeah, and he’s published two books- The Beauty Equation and the New York Times best seller, Models of Influence. The dude stays busy.
In this interview he shares a few great stories of how he used the resources he had access to to get his career off the ground, how he thinks about the progression of his career, and how he stays passionate about every day of work. You’re going to love it.
A few of my favorite takeaways:
- Nigel didn’t get a degree in photography; he looked outside of photography and outside of fashion for inspiration and career guidance. This helped him build creativity into the DNA of his career and say yes to growth opportunities that seemed risky at the time.
- Nigel leveraged his experience of being a model into being the photographer he would have wanted to work with. He deconstructed every set that he worked on and built everything he learned into his workflow.
- As a creative, you get paid to execute on a vision, regardless of how many quirks you introduce into your process.
- The ingredients to Nigel’s success were learning his craft, having passion for it, and being compassionate to himself. He lives the value of doing his best, regardless of how it compares to how others are doing.
People like to know when they book you what they’re going to get.
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- What’s the short version of the story of your career? [2:20]
- What was it about being a model that helped you be a better photographer? [9:57]
- What were your first steps in starting your photography career? [16:50]
- What was it like to make America’s Next Top Model? [23:20]
- Did you know that you’d succeed or did it feel like it was a risk at the time? [29:20]
- Is there some particular third ingredient besides knowing your field and having passion that lead to your success? [31:20]
- What are all the things that you do that go beyond what people think of when they think of what a photographer does and is it in that world that you’re creating a fertile environment for creativity? [35:00]
- Is there some other magic besides the elements that you’ve talked about so far in getting the juj out of a shoot? [38:38]
- What about the next aspect of your career are you most excited about? [42:15]
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- How Nigel stumbled into modeling during a gap year before college. [2:30]
- Nigel’s mentors were photographers who didn’t just take photos. They got creative with making photography a business. People like Fabrizio Ferri and Peter Arnell. [5:07]
- How taking the job with America’s Next Top Model was actually a risk for Nigel. [6:36]
- How Nigel leveraged his experience of being a model into being the photographer he would have wanted to work with. [10:40]
- Why Nigel is unapologetic about the quirky things he does on a photography shoot.. Because those quirks help him get the job done. [12:19]
- The importance of empathy for your models. [13:11]
- How Nigel could tell I had a short stint as a model. 😉 [14:45]
- Nigel built up his first photography series by shooting thousands of his friends in the nude, because he couldn’t afford clothes. [16:55]
- The importance of consistency in a body of work: people like to know what they’re going to get when they book you. [19:00]
- Listen to a great story about Nigel’s first apartment in NYC. [20:30]
- It took 10 years of ANTP to be massively successful before the high fashion world admitted that the fashion game had changed and partnering with Nigel would be better than continuing to shun him from the industry. [25:00]
- How Nigel uses compassion towards himself as one of the pillars of his success. [32:00]
- How Nigel’s wife and team have been instrumental in building the lasting success of his career. [36:00]
- Nigel, Helmut Newton and I all have something in common- our wives are instrumental in the successes of our careers. [38:00]
- Embrace the pain. “How can you sing the blues if you don’t have the blues?” [39:30]
- The stories of how Nigel got his own furniture line, a gym, involved with a tshirt company, and a wine label. [43:00]
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