Behind The Camera: Nigel Barker

Nigel Barker is today well-known for being a judge on the U.S. TV show “America’s Next Top Model” and being a photographer.

At the beginning of his career he was a handsome long-haired British fashion model in Milan which is where I cast him in the early nineties for two photo shoots.

The first time was in Milan during a very hot and humid summer where we shot a jewelry spec ad. The concept was having a girl and a guy kissing each other INTENSELY. Italy was fun in the nineties.
We started in the studio using a flashlight set up but quickly I felt that the artificial lighting concept and the shooting flow with flashes were not right for this kind of subject.

We went outside in the open courtyard of the 1700’s building and kept shooting using just natural daylight.

I kept saying to Nigel and the girl “more, more, more, intense, intense, intense” and enjoyed watching them. Nigel actually really got into it.

After an hour or so of nonstop kissing and shooting, we were finally done and suddenly we heard several voices yelling at us from above “Shame on you guys!”. We looked up and saw several heated up elderly neighbors who were watching us the entire time from the upper floors banisters (Ringhiera).
Of course this happened after the fact not during the shoot.

Later in 2010, I got a call from the Producers of America Next Top Model asking me if I could send them that photo of Nigel because they wanted to show it during the TV show while they were talking about Nigel’s
early modeling career since he mentioned my shoot.

The client was happy with our “free spec test” and gave us the O.K. for a real paid shoot. We shot a couple weeks later the entire kissing scene again but it was not the same as the spec test shoot.

Perhaps it was because this time it was a paid shoot, shot in color as opposed to black and white or because now Nigel worked with a different female model.

I wanted to replicate the private mood and feeling of the first test shoot where we were just in 4 people on set. Second time around there were too many people on set with clients, advertising agency, producers, assistants,make-up, hair, stylist and studio managers. Not really inspirational for an authentic kissing shot so I placed a huge studio wall in front of Nigel and the girl, poked a few holes for the clients to look through from the other side.

After the hot summer Nigel and I had another photo shoot together during a very cold and very dark northern Swedish Lapland winter at -32 Celsius/ -25 Fahrenheit. This shoot was for a famous international ski clothes company.

We shot their catalog working maybe only two hours per day since sunrise was around noon and sunset around 2 pm. Many shots with Nigel were having him in the middle of reindeers or with husky dogsleds or inside smoky lapish teepees.
During one occasion were on a private airport with winds at -32 celsius trying to replicate Cary Grant’s airplane scene in Hitchcock ’s NORTH to NORTHWEST. We had Nigel standing in the middle of an airplane runway with a Cesna airplane.

Landing and taking off over and over again, just behind Nigel and I who were both in the middle of the runway. It was very cold and windy. The rest of the team and the clients remained inside the warm airport building.

The day after we went to a fenced National Park Forest with the idea of photographing Nigel in between wolves. An unarmed National Park ranger opened the entrance gate at the fence and Nigel and I entered alone.
The park ranger, the client and our team decided to remain outside the park. We walked for about 10–15 minutes in the forest and suddenly a small group of 6–8 wolves appeared. I was impressed by how tall they were.

Eventually Nigel leaned back on a rock and two wolves approached to check him out closer while I was photographing the whole scene. During one shot, I had Nigel in the middle of the frame with two wolves noses very close on both sides of Nigel’s face. It looked like a “kissing“ photo again.

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