Nigel Bawcer

Nigel Barker plays a photographer on TV. He is also a photographer in real life. Complications ensue.

"I often get, 'Oh, do you do your own photography, or are you just on that show?'" Barker says. "And I say, 'Well, I'm a photographer on that show, so yes, I do.'"

That show, of course, is America's Next Top Model, on which Barker serves as resident photographer and judge, along with an assortment of fashionistas, including host and producer Tyra Banks. She's the one who sets the tone of the program, urging the young contestants

Nigel Barker Fashion Photography

Nigel Barker's Garden of Eden, ""'shot for America's Next to look "fierce" while dishing out what some people call tough love and others call sadistic humiliation. Reality television has seldom been as floridly dramatic as ANTM. "You can't stop watching it," says one young woman I know who admits she is hooked. "Hie show is like emotional crack."

Amid the tears and backstabbing, Barker lends ANTM what every reality-TV show needs: a dose of reality. Says Banks, "Nigel is fantastic on America's Next Top Model because he is able to draw on his experiences as a fashion photographer to be both informative and entertaining. It doesn't hurt that he is breathtakingly gorgeous. Our audience has a huge crush on him."

T~ hen Barker photographs the girls on % % / ANTM, you see a professional at work.

% "A" {'le fashion-shoot ideas are pulled

T ▼ from shoots that either Tyra or I have actually been through, if reincarnated in a slightly more dramatic manner," he says. The contestants on the show may never have real careers—that, indeed, is one of the criticisms directed at ANTM by fashion pros— but Barker does.

The problem for Barker is the way reality television transforms reality into something that doesn't feel quite real—what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness," as opposed to simply the truth.

On the other hand, television has given Barker something of value. It has made him the best-known photographer on the planet.

Barker himself does not make that claim. I heard it from another photographer, Russell James, who told me last year that he heard it from someone at International Creative Management, the Hollywood talent agency. At the time, ICM was developing a reality-television show called The Shot, in which a group of young fashion photographers would compete for fame and magazine assignments. Barker, already established on TV, was producing, and lames was to be the on-air talent.

According to James, the show, which ended up airing on VH1, was greenlighted in part because of Barker's name recognition. The program's developers concluded from survey results that Barker was in fact more widely


Yoanna House

1. Barker photographed model Chris Wheelen with an imposing white python for ReFresh magazine.

2. Tyra Banks, the fierce host of America's Next Top Model, with contestant Yoanna House. Barker shot the pair after House was named winner of ANTM Season Two.

3. A Barker shot of model Tori Praver.

4. In February Barker traveled to Canada on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States to document the "harvesting" of baby seals for their white fur. He took along assistants and enough lighting gear to produce beauty shots.

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