Nigel Barker: Be the Artist You Want to Work With | Chase Jarvis LIVE

– Hey everybody, what’s up, I’m Chase. Welcome to another episode of The Chase Jarvis Live
Show, here on CreativeLive. You all know this show. This is where I sit
down with amazing humans and I do everything I can
to unlock their brains to help you live your dreams in career and hobby and in life. My guest today started
out on the other side of the camera as a fashion icon, moved to becoming one of the world’s top fashion photographers, then landed this random
deal as a photographer and judge on America’s Top Model. Not random at all. All these things happen for a reason. And today he’s a thriving entrepreneur. My guest today is none
other than Mr. Nigel Barker. (upbeat electronic music) (audience applauding) – They love you! – Welcome to the show, bud.
– Thanks, buddy. – Been a long time
comin’, good to have you. – Oh, I appreciate it. (Chase laughs) – I’m just gonna start
off by sayin’ the obvious. We’re dressed the same. – (laughing) No, let’s be
fair, you’re dressed like me. – Yes, that’s true, because you– (Nigel laughs) In the classic sense, I wore it better, and if you’re listening
to this right now– – Did you hear that?
– Some people are watching, ’cause you can watch this show, but a lot of people I think
predominantly listen, and… Like, we have the same frickin’ pants, and the shoes are slightly
different, but only slightly. – You know…
(Chase laughs) It’s kinda scary. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, except for the fact that
they are very comfortable. – They are, this is why I wear them. My wife’s like, “Oh, you’re
wearin’ sweatpants again today.” ‘Cause they’re glorified sweatpants. Anyway. – My wife likes to say, “Oh,
you think you’re a soldier.” Like, “Come on, soldier boy.” And she takes the micky out of me, so. Hey, you know, maybe that’s what it is. – We’re wearin’ it, we’re wearin’ camo, and it’s not the best way to start a show, I’m not gonna lie, but I couldn’t, for those people who are watching, like, “Wait a minute, they wore
a uniform on the show?” So–
– It’s true. – We also have a very similar career path, except you were a sort of classic model, I was an athlete, so spent a lot of time on the other side of the camera. – I can see the guns. – Then we transitioned to photographers, and now sort of photographers
plus entrepreneurs. So, that was no way an
attempt to summarize the last 30 years of your life–
– Pretty good. – But in Nigel Barker’s own words, how in the hell did you
get to sittin’ right here? Gimme the short version of the
30-year arc of your career. – I mean I think at the end of the day, it was about, one, believing in myself, and also, having a dream, right? Dreaming about moving from England and seeing the world,
originally traveling. And you know, I grew up
doing a bit of travel. I was always fascinated with it. And I think when I first started modeling, and I never wanted to model, it was not a dream of mine actually. I kind of fell into it. Ironically, a show called
The Clothes Show in England, which was one of the very first modeling competitions, in the ’80s, right? – (chuckling) Wow. – And I didn’t win, and I got a top three, and someone said to me, “Oh, would you like a modeling contract?” And I thought, OK, my year
off between high school and college, I would do a bit of modeling. – Gap year.
– Gap year, yeah. – Exactly. – There we go, proper British term. – Proper British term. I was trying to Americanize it for you. But you know, I did a bit of modeling. It went well, and the first thing that really struck me
was just how interesting people in fashion are, right? (chuckling) I’d come from a very straight-laced, boarding school, private school, English education system, you know, all-boys schools and things like that. And all of a sudden, I
was in the fashion world. And there were all kinds of characters. It was almost like, this
is where all the people, the fashionistas, the
misfits, the odd bunch, everyone comes together, and
they’re in this business. And I loved it. I’m like, “I’ve finally
found home,” in a weird way. – Yeah, your tribe. – You know, it was like, it was my tribe, and there were people who, you know, who’d been told they couldn’t do this, or they shouldn’t do
that, you don’t fit in. And you know, I just loved the creativity. People making stuff happen, and you know, and I loved it, and I didn’t leave. My parents got very upset with me. (giggling) Careful, parents, what you
tell your kids they can do, ’cause it was my mum that got me involved in this modeling malarkey
in the first place, and it led to sort of six years, me not going to medical school,
and becoming a photographer. Because after six years, I said ’80s, right, so in the ’80s, it was all about the sort of era of the supermodel. There were curvaceous models,
there were these Amazonians, you know, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell. And then came along heroin chic, androgyny, Kate Moss, designers, you know, like Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs. It was a very different time. And I’m not a small guy. – Yeah, you’re very, yeah– – I wasn’t about to
become (chuckling) like, you know, I played rugby, and I rode. I wasn’t about to become androgenous. So, I didn’t wanna throw away
everything I’d ever done, the past six years, my other degree. And I had always loved photography. And it wasn’t until I became
a model that I realized that photography was even a career choice. There was not university degrees in photography back when we were kids. That was new, it was
interns and assisting. So you know, and I started
to transition over, and I could see the industry was changing, and I took that opportunity to not throw away what I had learned. And I also found and saw photographers similar to yourself, but you
know, when I was younger, who I could see weren’t
just doing photography, but were turning it into a business. Photographers like Fabrizio Ferreri, who started Superstudios in Milan, who then opened Industria
Superstudios in New York. And had a studio business as
well as photography business. He then started a fashion business called Ferreri, which
was his clothing line. He then had an airline,
he bought an island. (laughing) I’m like, this is a photographer! Right, I’m like, “OK.” Like, this is not what you think when you think photographer. – For sure. – A guy called Peter Arnell,
who bought all the billboards down Houston Street in New York City. And if anyone wanted to
advertise in New York City, between Soho and Chelsea,
on Houston Street, you had to use him or
his advertising company to shoot the advertising campaigns. It was brilliant.
– Brilliant. – And I’m like, these are
different ways of marketing and branding and doing
business within photography. And so I was inspired by
these men and these women who were doing these sorts of things. And I tried to put that into my business. And I remember when Top
Model came knocking. Tyra had done one season, I
wasn’t there for season one. It was on a small network called UPN, which doesn’t even exist anymore. And it was a bit of a cult show. Wasn’t a huge hit, but it was, you know, done quite well, season one. And she came and said, “Oh, would you,” you know, “be interested in doing “a photo shoot for next season?” And I thought, “OK, why
not, it’s a bit fun,” and you know, reality TV was new, if you can believe it. (chuckling) This is back in 2003. And they actually put
everyone on tape back then. And I was on tape, and
I think it was partly my British accent,
because by all accounts, (laughing) you know, every reality show cocktail has a dash of English in it, you know. And they liked the way I critiqued the models and what have you. And I got a call a month later. I didn’t think I’d got it,
’cause it was a month later. And they said, “Look,” you know,
“we’ve looked at your tape, “we like what you do,
we’d like you on the show. “But would you consider
a more permanent role? “As a permanent judge and a photographer?” And I didn’t really know what that meant, but I did know that it
was a bit of a risk. And you think now, well, what’s the risk? Because obviously, I did well out of it, and it’s a part of my
calling card, you know. But it was a risk, because
when you work in fashion, especially back then,
high fashion and couture and that world that I was in,
and editorial photography, being on prime time, being sort of a bit of a sellout perhaps, and
commercializing yourself, opening the doors of this exclusive fashion club to the world, was not a popular things with people. They were like, “Don’t make
a mockery of what we do. “We’re not prime time.” You know, and I knew
that that was that risk. And people warned me. But I also thought, and I could feel it, that times were changing,
and I think being in touch with the zeitgeist of the
time is very important. And I could see that people
loved these kinds of shows. And I’m like, “You know what, sod it. “This is a part of pop culture, “and I wanna be a part of it.” And I enjoyed that kind of feeling. And so I took the risk, and one season, for me, led to 18 seasons that I did. Became the number-one show on prime time on a Wednesday night. We syndicated to 156
countries around the world, and had a weekly viewership of over 100 million people watching our show. We were the number-one television export out of the US for several years, beating both Baywatch and Sesame Street. – Ooh.
– Sorry, Grover. (laughing) – (laughing) But you know,
it was something, you know. – Yeah, it’s real. – And it was real, it became a real deal. And there was a whole generation of fashionistas and young
photographers who grew up, who, you know, saw what
we did on that show and were inspired to take up the camera. You know, who knew that I would be here, you know, like 20 years later, and now everybody has a
camera on their phone, and they’re all fascinated
with the world of photography. – I think that your story is fascinating because of all of the little
decisions that you had to make. Like that you wanted to move
from modeling into photography. That when photography was happening, you realized that it was changing. And then when it was
changing, you decided actively that you were going to risk the thing that was the surer, which is being a part of this fashion community,
with the unknown. So there’s just a series of probably, you know, 20 decisions that
have shaped your career. So if I’m gonna go back
and tap into a couple of those little anecdotes along the way… What was it about being a
model that you feel like helped you be a better photographer? – So, it’s funny, you know, I
actually didn’t like modeling. And (chuckling) it’s ironic,
because I’m constantly talking to people about becoming models, and helping them be models, and things. But I really just didn’t love it. I kind of always felt awkward. – Because it was boring? There’s a lot of standing
around if you don’t know. – Yeah, it was a bit of standing around, no, that wasn’t the main reason. I actually felt a little
silly, to be honest. I’ll be real straight up with you. I just felt uncomfortable. And maybe it’s the control in me. I am quite controlling. (chuckles) Probably very controlling,
if I talk to some people. But you know, and so, when you’re not in control of your life, and you’re at the whim of someone else telling you what to do or the whim of someone else booking you or hiring you, that doesn’t make me feel comfortable. And I didn’t like just being arm candy, and to be honest, the
fashion industry for men, male models, you are not the lead. You’re always the sort of secondary. You’re hired as a prop, you know. So it just wasn’t fulfilling for me. But I did love the role
that the photographer had, or the creative director
had, or the editor in chief had, you know, the designer had. And I’m like, “Well, which
one of these can I do? “Where is my potential here?” And I saw the photographers,
and I remember as a model, what I learned, specifically,
was watching how all these different
photographers I worked with, hundreds over the years, and
some of the biggest names in the business, how they treated
me, how they talked to me, how they treated the people on their set, their team, how they
worked a job, you know. And their finesse or their
charm or their lack of it, you know, and whether
they got booked again, or whether I got booked again,
the way they lit their sets. You know, to every aspect of it. You know, the whole
production, and not just from one photographer that
I could have assisted, but sort of several hundred. And it was very interesting, the reaction. And certain photographers,
what they got out of me because of the way they talked to me. And I incorporated that into my style. – Insanely valuable. That’s like a crash course that you cannot possibly build on purpose. That has to happen from
your deconstructing the best successes of every set that you’ve ever been on, right? – You know, I do some quirky things, there’s no doubt, as a photographer now. And I’m not apologetic about it. Some people even laugh at
me, or I know have spoken to my assistants and said,
“Does he always do that?” You know. And they’re like, “Yes, he does. “But he has a reason for it.” And you know, it’s just,
“Let him do his thing.” Because ultimately, there isn’t one route to getting the job done, you know. You can all do it your own different ways, and if you create
something that is beautiful and it’s authentic and it moves you, and it, you know, arrests people when they see an image, then you’ve done your job. How you got there is kind of up to you. – Totally, the thing
that’s locked right here, this is the thing, how you got there– – Like a chef, I mean,
how many ways can you cook something, but
there are different ways, and it can taste
different, but it can still potentially be the same thing, right? So you know, I do things like, and it’s from my modeling days. I always get into my own
lights, and I feel the light, I stand where the model is, and I really kind of embrace what that feels like. I also look and see, what
is the model looking at? You know, ’cause I’m looking
at them, they look gorgeous. And they’re on a beautiful background, ’cause this is my scenery. And I’m like, “Oh, everything’s stunning! “Why isn’t this working?” And you look for what they’re looking at, and half the time, first of
all they’re lookin’ at me. Which isn’t always that great. (chuckling) And then second
of all, they’re looking at a whole team of people starin’ at them, picking them apart, you know. And it could be a
parking lot, or you know, it might not be what I’m looking at. So you know, you really
require them to be actors. But they’re not actors. So therefore you have to motivate them. And so there are all these sorts of things that I start to think
about and I try to involve. And so there’s a simpatico kind of thing, I empathize with them, and I’m like, “OK, let me put myself in your shoes.” – So powerful. – You know, we all have our own quirks, and you know, some people never do that. I know there are photographers who would never be photographed or don’t like it. But I’m like, “If I’m gonna do it to you, “I’ve gotta be OK having it done to me.” – Well, I think that works for probably lots of careers and
lots of ways and angles. But I think that specifically,
and we share this, you don’t know this
about me yet, but to me, I have a very short modeling career. Mostly in sports, on the
other side of the camera. But one of the obsessions that
I have is like a tidy set. – I could tell, by the way.
– OK. – I could tell by the way you walked. – What? – That you used to have a
modeling background. (cackling) You know, they all think they can hide it. – Ah.
– But I can always tell. – Short, short stint.
(Nigel laughs) But we all have the things
that, what I loved is that you’re not apologetic about
it, like, this is the thing. And it is what you learn, you know, on both sides of the cameras,
being on hundreds of sets, is that how you get
there becomes your thing. And the fact that you’re
empathetic for the model might create or draw out of them something that some other photographer can’t get. This is about as messy as I’ll
let my set get right here, this bag over there, and
there’s a couple of– – I’m the same way. – Yeah, because to me, when I look at just stuff strewn all over the
place, it creates anxiety. So we’ll hide it in a different place. Just, I want everyone to
feel like this is a space that feels good when you’re into it. And sure, this photograph
needs to look good, but the whole place has to feel good. – Oh, yeah, no, I have OCD I think. I mean it comes down to
like, my assistants know that the wires on the
ground, the cables leading away from my lights, have to
be in lines that are angled. (Chase laughs) And they
have to be taped down. – Talk about the camera operators here. – So it’s–
– Yes, they’re laughing. They’re laughing, because it’s true. – I can see that. And when I take pictures, and this is me, and there’s other photographers out there, I’m not hating on you. But I’m not a big fan of like, people shooting on the
beach when the ocean is going like that in the background. I’m like, “What happened,
is there an earthquake? “Did you fall when you took this picture?” (Chase laughs) That’s just me, OK, my
horizons are all damn straight. I’m all about symmetry, and other people love those pictures, so it’s again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It just drives me nuts. (chuckles) – Well, we are similar in that. I like the fact that you,
I think empathy is a word that is long overdue,
and there’s a realization in our culture that
empathy, I think it’s gonna really help us in the
next chapter of culture. Because understanding how someone else feels is part of the human equation. So the fact that you’ve been on this side of the camera before you
became a photographer. But now I wanna shift gears and talk about how in particular did,
what was your first step or series of steps, when you’re like, “OK, I wanna go do that, I wanna do what “that guy or that girl
is doin’ right there?” ‘Cause you mentioned, it’s not really happening in a four-year degree. Nowadays, there are things like CreativeLive that didn’t exist. So what did you do, and then what would you recommend for others? And just to be clear, this
goes beyond photography. We’re talking about
photography because that’s Nigel’s background, that’s mine as well. But similar is probably
true in a lot of things. – I had to use what was available, I think is the reality of the matter. And I was lucky, too, because
I was modeling at the time. And so I looked around everyone I was working with, and they were models, right? So there I had this sort of army of, you know, good-looking, attractive people who are in the business,
who want to be photographed. And one of the hard
things most photographers face is, “Well, who do I photograph? “I don’t know any models.” – My friend Joey–
– Right, my friend, “Would you let me take your picture?” So, that was my paradigm. I was living in Milan,
and I actually lived in a building that had hundreds
of models living in it. And every day, they would
come back from work, if they had a job, which
most of them didn’t. And you know, I would say to them, “Please don’t wipe your makeup off. “Leave your hair the way the
professionals have done it. “And we will do portraits, “and I will give you the pictures.” ‘Cause half the time, you didn’t get the pictures of your
jobs, or they might be six months later and the
model’s already returned to the US, the Italian
tear sheet, and you hope you get the magazine
somewhere where you live in Ohio, or something.
(Chase laughs) And you’re just not gonna get it. So I’m like, “Let me at least
take a portrait of you.” So they all loved it. So they would come in, and I gotta say that most of my original portraits I think were nudes of most people, because I didn’t have any clothes. (Chase laughs) They
don’t let you walk home, unless the model steals
the clothes, you know, she doesn’t come home with the clothing. But she does have the
hair and the makeup on. So, they’re like, “OK,” and I have these great portraits of these beautiful girls, including my wife and my sister-in-law who I met back then,
25 years ago in Milan. And every day they’d have
different hair and makeup, and we would create these
great shots in Milan, with beautiful lighting, and
these old Italian streets. Very, very simple, black and white mostly. And I was just honing my eye. So that’s how that aspect of it started, I built up a portfolio. And I think I figured out, I photographed almost 1,000 models in
the first two years. So I had a huge body of
work, very consistent, ’cause it was all very similar scenarios, style, lighting, feel. And of course that’s important
too, ’cause you know– – Signature.
– Yes. You know, people like to know when they book you, what’re they gonna get? You know, and of course it doesn’t mean you can’t do something else, but it does freak people out when they see 100 things, and they’re like, “Ooh, which
one are we gonna get today?” You know, so that was where I started. And I’ve always called things
now, for whatever reason, I call them series, a series. And it’s a sort of a series,
an element of my career that’s a style that I
shot, a look and a feel. And it changed when I moved to Paris, ’cause the light was different, and the people were
different, and the models were different, it was all
a bit more chic and chichi. The Italians, in Italy,
everyone who goes there, they’re all rough and
ready and sort of sexy. And Paris is more upscale and, you know, the models started wearing clothes. (both laugh) And you know, got to
England and everyone was skinny and odd-looking,
and I went down that road. And I moved to the States,
and it’s when I moved to America that I took the risk on myself, I stopped modeling completely,
I decided to become the photographer, I
was reinventing myself. No one really knew me over there. I’d only done a very little
bit of modeling five years ago. And I went to the meatpacking district, which in hindsight was
brilliant, but then was– – Scary.
– Terrifying. (chuckling) The only reason why I went was ’cause it was the only
place I could afford to go. You know, and I remember when I first started looking for an apartment, I looked in The Village
Voice, I saw, you know, an opportunity of an apartment
I could be a roommate in, and I went and knocked on the door, and it was right there on 14th and 9th. And I opened the door,
and towering above me in suspender belts and heels
was this lady who said, “Hi, are you Nigel come to see your room?” And I was like, “Uh, yes, please, “can I have a look at my room?” And I was this young man,
and she walked me in, and she pulls open this
curtain, above the bed, and the bed was just a bed
with a curtain around it. With handcuffs hanging from the bed top. And I’m like, “Oh, wow.”
(Chase laughs) “That’ll be your room.” And I was like, “OK, um.” Well, the funny thing is
that I ended up staying. And I (laughs)–
– No warning signs here. – No warning signs here, right. But living in the fashion industry, I’m like, “OK, I can deal with this, “this is cool, let’s rock this world.” And I got a studio, which was like a 4,000-square-foot studio. And you know, models used to show up, there was an active meatpacking
plant at the bottom. And they would look, and they would say, “Oh, hi, I’m here to see
Nigel Barker for a shoot. “I think I’m at the wrong place. “I must have the wrong number.” And I would look out the
window, and I’d see them, and I’m like, “No no, you’re here. “Climb over the carcass.
(Chase laughs) “Come up to the third
floor, and don’t worry “about the speakeasy on the second floor “or the club called Hell
that’s in the basement.” (Chase laughs)
“I’m up there.” And that’s how my career started. And you know, by having that space, which was a risk ’cause it cost me money to have a studio space,
but it also allowed me, you know, to shoot whenever I want. And I loved the Andy
Warhol factory concept. – Of course, same, big
inspiration for me, yeah. – Just being able to
have whatever you want, whenever, do whatever you want, and create whatever you want at any time of the day and night. I’d throw parties, everyone would come, and then by 2:00 in the
morning, everyone would be in the mood to get their photograph taken. We’d set up the lights,
we’d wheel them out, people would be doing all kinds of crazy stuff, you start shooting them. And the parties became
well-known in New York City, and that was really how I started. It was a lot of fun, those days. – Brilliant. So, there’s this very clear transition from model to photographer. You’ve already shared the story of going from photographer to getting the call that day, America’s Top Model. But we haven’t really talked about the trajectory of the show. So you came on after shooting, being a photographer, in an episode. And then you went like full-on,
being a regular on a show. How was it in like, you know, the sausage factory of making television? It’s very different in real life when you’re on set every
day, versus what gets manufactured and shown to the world. So give me a little
bit of a arc of sort of what was going on in your
mind, and on the show, and how was it in real life relative to what was being put out on the telly? – You know, it was very
exciting, to be honest. It was an exciting time all around. Television was still
obviously very popular. Now it’s very different,
it’s changed enormously, how people are receiving their content. But the day-to-day was
a lot of fun, you know. We really were creating… Making people’s dreams come true, I think is the way to describe it. A lot of people were interested
in the fashion industry, they had been forever, and
this was the very first time people were being allowed into it. And I did feel very responsible
for the contestants. You know, this was their
dream, and they were there and they were willing to try anything. And you know, you felt
responsible for them. You know, I always sort of joke that I was sort of loco parentis,
which means I was basically their parent or guardian on set. And I always had that feeling for them. I think, too, because I
used to be one of them. And so I looked at them and
I felt so fragile for them, I’m like, “We’ve gotta make sure this is “a good experience and
that you grow from it.” And I do believe that’s partly why I was the longest-standing judge on the show. I mean, I was there for 18-odd seasons, and I saw many other people come and go. And interestingly enough,
from a business standpoint, the show, and that risk
I talked about earlier, how it was a risk going on Top Model. The magazine sponsor was Jane magazine, and then Nylon, and then
it became Seventeen. The main sponsor for the actual show was things like Walmart, and
it then moved to CoverGirl. But they were very commercial, they were very, it was not high fashion. – Very mass media.
– Very mass. And you know, before that, I was working for Paper Magazine, I’d done
stuff for Interview Magazine, and I was doing all
this sort of cool stuff. You know, great fashion houses were calling me and asking me to do shoots. And then they stopped. They stopped calling.
(snaps fingers) Just like that. And I was like, “Ooh, OK, ouch. “So now what? “How do I monetize what I’m doing? “How do I turn this into
an actual opportunity?” And of course, I realized
that what I was doing was, I was bringing fashion to the masses. I was that voice for them. The voice of reason,
an expert in my field, and I’m like, “OK, well,
that’s not a bad place to be. “That’s actually a
rather good place to be.” You know, I don’t need
to preach to the choir, everyone who’s already got
the money and in fashion. How about we do something of our own? And you know what happened, of course, is that the show became
so incredibly successful that magazines like Vogue, ten
seasons deep, came knocking. – Had to come back.
– The ones who, had to come. The ones who laughed at us and said, “Ooh, you shouldn’t do
this, that’s not right,” you know, “It’s makin’
a mockery of fashion, “we don’t hang people from bridges, “we don’t put spiders on people’s faces, “we don’t,” you know, “do
photo shoots on water.” And you know, “This is all silly stuff.” And actually, every single shoot we did on America’s Next Top Model was reference of some fantastic photo shoot that had actually happened in history, and absolutely people put
models in balls of glass on the Seine, you know, in Paris. And there are fantastic classic pictures with people with animals. And all that stuff is real. And yes, sometimes hanging from bridges. It doesn’t happen every day, but we’re making TV,
so we make it exciting. So on our show, it does happen every day. This is what could happen. It was the fantasy, which is what fashion is built on anyway. And so ten seasons deep, Italian Vogue, not just American Vogue, but the hippest, most editorial, cool Vogue there is, Italian Vogue, came on
as our magazine sponsor. One of the guest judges
who sat next to me became Andre Leon Talley,
editor-at-large of American Vogue. And we had the likes of, you know, Versaces, Missonis, and
every major designer and supermodel come on as our
guest judges for the week. And the whole thing changed dramatically. And I always thought to myself, secretly, I laughed at myself and thought, “Really, so what, now we’re en vogue?” “You know, ten years later? “Who’s missed the boat?” Or quite frankly, you
know, I think we were perhaps more en vogue than Vogue was. And they knew it. – Isn’t that weird? The same thing could be said, I feel like, just stepping back and saying, like that, what is not in fashion
becomes fashionable. And to me the folks who are to this day interesting as people, as visionaries, as leaders, just look at Andy Warhol. Like, he was talking about how art and commerce were fascinating. Like, it wasn’t just being like, so… True to art, I think he
said the most interesting kind of art is business, or something– – Yes, right.
– Some great line like that. And when you can see a handful of examples of people who are constantly
reinventing themselves, they’re actually setting the trend, even at the time where it’s very painful for others to follow. Like, “Oh, they’re crazy,
what are they doing?” And I think the same could be said in basically any industry. If you look at people who are doing things that are sort of renegade. What I wanna tap into and ask is, this has been great
storytelling, but did you know, or did you realize that there was a small chance that it could go like this, but you were willing to risk it anyway? – I think it was a bit of both. It was definitely a bit of both. There were times when you didn’t know. And you had to shake
the dice a little bit. But you know, you have to also know what you’re gambling with. And you have to be ready to ante up, and you have to also be
ready to leave the table. You know, and there are
moments where you’re like, “OK, I’ve done this, I’ve
made some good money, “I’ve done what I needed
to do, time to move.” And it’s very difficult when you’re doing really well, actually. And there was a time of
course when I actually was fired off my show, off
America’s Next Top Model. I got fired. And it was painful. With hindsight, I may have
left earlier, actually. The funny thing is that a week later, I got a job offer from
Naomi Campbell and The Face. And she asked me to host her show. And I went straight in
without even a break– (Chase laughs) in hosting her show for two years. And it was complicated to do, because Naomi was not
good friends with Tyra at the time, or any of
that kind of business. But actually, it was an eye-opener for me, and again, further cemented my position as being someone who was on television talking about the business, once again. But no, you know, you don’t always know, and you do have to take risks. But every single time that something comes up like that,
you’ve gotta do your best, you’ve gotta try your hardest, you’ve gotta be as smart as possible. And if you’re not enjoying
it, that’s another part of it. I’m incredibly passionate
about everything. And I don’t take up anything
just to do a little bit of it. I’m like, “No, I’m either 100%
in, or I’m not in at all.” You know. And I feel that about
life in general, you know. – Well I have the same experience, and I think we were
laughing before we started the cameras rolling,
about how historically, photography wasn’t about giving away all of your trade secrets, ’cause that was the thing that the business was made on. And, not dissimilar to
you, I saw where this world was going and said, “Wait a minute, “information wants to be free and this is “all gonna be common knowledge soon, “so let’s start telling
stories about what it’s like, “and start, you know, providing a vehicle “for other people to tap in.” And that, for me, and for CreativeLive, like, that was an ignition point. So I think that this is a very… You’ve listed two ingredients. One, sort of listening to the industry, and looking at where it’s going, and not where it’s necessarily been. And also this secondary piece that you just filled in for us of passion. So is there some particular
magic third ingredient? ‘Cause you have to know an industry well enough to step into it. That’s what you talked
about, like “I knew fashion, “I knew photography a little bit, “and I could see myself in that role. “I was very passionate about it.” Is it just those two ingredients, or is there some other third ingredient? – What I would say would be this, is that the word passion is interesting, ’cause yes, it’s you’re
passionate, and I am passionate. And I’m driven, and I’m
competitive, with myself as well as other people
and everything else, right? But I’m also compassionate. To myself, as well. And when I say that I love myself, I mean that in the right sense. I mean that it’s important
to love yourself. You’ve gotta be kind to yourself. You can’t be too judgemental. You can’t be too tough. You have to know when, you know, I always say, “Look, just do your best.” I may not be as good as you, I may not be as good as the next person. But I tried my best,
and I’m proud of that. You know, and that’s a big
part of life, I think, too. You know, if you think you’re
better than everyone else, of course, there’s the word conceited, and that’s what that is, right? But if, you know, you’re
OK with, “I ran my fastest. “I came in second, but I ran my fastest. “I couldn’t have run faster.” Hey, what’re you gonna do? You gonna beat yourself
up about that forever? Doesn’t make any sense, right? So, giving yourself that opportunity. But when you add these things together, I think for me it was understanding that I was always gonna try my hardest, I was gonna put 100%
in, and 120 if need be. I would be OK with that. And you know, there’s the
element of risk as well. With those things, the magic is when all of a sudden, something
spontaneous happens. And spontaneity, for me, is really the American Dream in a way. It’s the word, freedom. Because only when you are truly free do special things happen. And I see it on set all the time. When the magic happens, when
something I wasn’t expecting, and I’m like, “Wow,”
and literally the hair on the back of my neck stands up on end, and I’m like, “I just got
something really special. “And I didn’t know that was gonna happen.” And it was a buildup of all those things, and it’s just spontaneous. And it’s very hard, ’cause
you can’t bottle spontaneity. You know, but it is allowing
spontaneity to happen. You know, and it comes from I think a lot of these things, these
sort of other attributes. If you allow that moment to happen. – There’s also, I’ll
reference another conversation we had before, it’s like, it’s not just the photograph that
makes the photographer. We talked about the end result, yes, but it’s kinda, can you give that result over and over and over? ‘Cause people are betting on you, and they have to bet on something
that is a known quantity, whether it’s being able
to look at your portfolio. But you also described how
it’s, in a photographer, I think you could say this in any career. Like, it’s the total package,
it’s all of the things that you can bring to that moment. – Totally. – And I wanna, A, have you
comment on all of the things that are beyond what people think about when they think of a photographer. Like, what are the other
things that you control for? So that’s question one. And then question two,
is it in that world, that are you really like creating a fertile environment for spontaneity? So, question one, like, what is it beyond just the photograph that you as a photographer are setting up? You talked about client management, or inspiration, or the sets. So just tell us a little
bit of story of that. – It really, for me,
and again, there’s no– – There’s no list.
– There’s no list, or there’s no even magic potion, right? I mean people often say, you know, “What three things can I do?” (Chase chuckles) Or they’re like, “Can
you give me some advice? “I wanna do what you
did with your career.” It’s like, that’s just never gonna happen. And you may have a better career than me. Right, but, having a team was always been incredibly crucial. I’m the sum of my parts, and my parts, you know, are everyone who works with me and for me and around me, and you know. And I met my wife, as I mentioned earlier, 25 years ago, with her twin sister, and they became my muses. And I had these incredible muses, which helped me work
and build my portfolio. But my wife and I have also worked hand-in-glove together for years. And everything I do,
every shoot that I do, her fingerprint is on it as much as mine. And many of my photo assistants have been with me for a decade, and 12 years, and 15 years, and, you know. And everything they do, it’s a part of the DNA of what I do, you know? It isn’t just me, even if
sometimes it is just me and the model, there’s so
much that’s gone into that. Even my mood that day, even
like the mood on the set, my hair and makeup
artists, the way they work with people, and how
they make people feel. The way my stylists dress people. It’s not just having any old team. It has to be this team, you know. You can’t trade people, it’s
like having your own family. You can’t trade your brothers and sisters ’cause you don’t like ’em today, for someone else, and say,
“Oh, it’s still family.” It’s like, no, even if you
don’t get on, it’s your family. And these people become your family. And some days they rub
you up the wrong way. Other times you love each other to death. And when you don’t see each
other, you miss one another. And it was that team, I
think was the secret sauce. And hey, you know what, you
can build your own team. It doesn’t have to be my team. That was the team that worked for me. And that’s the wonderful thing. And I think most great people I know have wonderful people around them, and they’re good at delegating. They need to know how to do that, and they need to know
how to manage people too, as well as themselves, and have people there that manage them. You know.
(Chase chuckles) I always say, you’ve
gotta speak to the boss. And I direct them to my wife. I’m like, you know, if
she doesn’t approve, or she’s not gonna do it…
(Chase laughs) And I remember people like
photographers like Helmut Newton. You know, his wife worked
all his photo shoots. She picked the models,
she set up the ideas and the concepts, and
he went and shot them. You know, and people often will credit Helmut for everything, but actually his wife was very instrumental. – The same is true for me, by the way. Kate has been absolutely critical in every element of my career. And I try and recognize
her, as you do your wife of 25 years, the same,
25 years and counting. – Amazing, congratulations. – So, it’s fair to say
it’s the total package. You talked about team, you
talked about the environment, we’ve earlier talked about
what it feels like on set. So those are the parameters. Now, is it all of those
things that gets to culminate in this magic moment, the serendipity? Or is there some other magic that you’re trying to infuse in the moment? ‘Cause that’s the thing that people, I think, when they’re
listening to you right now, they’re like, “Yeah, but how do I get, where’s the jush, how
do I get that thing?” – You know the jush is
inspiration, probably. And that is a love of life. You have to appreciate life. You have to literally
wake up in the morning and be willing and open to be inspired. People say to me all the time, “Oh, what happens if
you’re not inspired, or,” you know, “you don’t know what to do, “you don’t know how to
shoot it,” and I’m like… I get a bit stuck with that question. Because I’m like, I don’t really know, because I literally wake up,
and I’m inspired by the rain. I’m inspired by the smell
of cooking. (chuckles) I’m inspired by, you know, the color of things around me, someone’s story. Good or bad, I mean I love New York City, because it’s dirty and smelly and stinky. That actually inspires me. Because how can you sing the blues, unless you have the blues? You know, and what a
beautiful music the blues is. You know, and like, most great
love songs are of heartbreak, not of actually, you know, being in love. So you need the pain as well as, you know, the nice side of life. And heck, I hate to say it, but it’s one of the reasons
I never moved to LA. I love Los Angeles, but every
time I’m there, I’m like, “Hey, maybe I’ll just hang
here in the garden today.” – ‘Cause it’s so easy.
– It’s so nice. (both laughing) You know,
and I’m like, I go back to New York, and I’m like, “Agh!” – It’s snowing today. (talking over each other) – Everyone’s pushing, and stress, and then I do my best work. And I gotta say, some of my best shoots have been when I had a hangover. So hey, (chuckling) you know, it happens. There were some times that that pain, and if you push through,
it’s being inspired. And if you’re not inspired, of course it’s difficult to do anything. But I feel very inspired all the time. Everything, I listen to small things, drops of water in the shower,
the noise of music, anything. I love music, I love colors, you know. I go out, I see the Seattle sky, and people are like, “Oh, it’s gray.” I’m like, “Yeah, no, but it
could be really emotional.” It could be really powerful,
it could be really angry. Or it could be really soft, it could be really gentle, it’s
misty, it’s like a queen. And like, that’s how I see things. And I think that, for
me, helps me in general have those moments of spontaneity. And I see opportunity. I see promise in people. I love people. You know, I’ve done documentaries
in Haiti, two of them. I’ve done a documentary in
Africa on pediatric AIDS. And I’m fascinated in the human condition, and how people in the
most adverse of conditions push through, power
through, and decide that they’re not gonna accept this crappy life, and actually they’re gonna
make something of it. Even though they’ve got beyond nothing, lost all their family members
and live in a tent city, and are, you know, a little girl, and she’s trying to get educated and go to school every day, and trying to make something better for herself. And you see these people
and you’re like, “Huh.” How can you not be inspired? – Last question, because
I’ve already kept you a couple of minutes
longer than I promised. – It’s all good. – Because he’s gotta get back
to his CreativeLive class. We also talked about this before the show, but we never really got
to complete our thought, and it’s how we’ve both as photographers taken on a lot of other interests, and then we’re doing things that transcend the original
concept of photography. It’s a little bit full-circle, like when you talked
about some of the folks that have inspired you,
like, wait a minute, these people are doing
so many different things. Now with CreativeLive, you
with your furniture line, and Dogpound gym in New York. What is it about this
next aspect of your career that you’re most excited about? And what do the rest of
us have to learn from it? – You know, I think it’s
one of those things. It’s a couple of things, right. So some of this started
like you mentioned, I have a furniture line, it’s called NB1, and it sells at this store
called Art Van in the Midwest. And the gym, the Dogpound,
they’re very different. I have an investment
in this T-shirt company that I’m wearin’ right now. And I have an investment
in a wine company, and all these different things,
they’re all very diverse. They’re things I love, right? They’re businesses I love. And also, I thought to
myself, as a photographer, I’ve never waited around
for people to hire me. I’ve never said, you know, “I
hope I get a job this year.” And, “who’s gonna hire me?” I literally go to people and
say, “You should hire me. “This is what I would do for you. “This is how I feel your
campaign should look.” And if they can’t afford to pay me, I’ll say, “OK, how ’bout this.” Or they don’t want to pay me, or I decide I don’t want to be paid. Which is another thing. I’m like, “Look, how ’bout I
take a slice of your business? “I will shoot everything,
I’ll handle your marketing “and your advertising, and
I’ll turn it around for you. And this is what we’re gonna
do, and this is the plan.” And utilizing everything that I have, my celebrity and my social media, and everything else, and my talent as a photographer to tell these stories. And it’s been a very interesting
kind of business decision. And I remember with Art Van specifically, I was brought on as a photographer to shoot their catalogs and campaigns. And I remember talking to Mr.
Van himself, at a meeting. And he says, “So, Nigel,” you know, “what would you like to do for us? “What’s your vision?” And I
looked at him, and I said, “Well, you know what I’d really “like to do is my own furniture line.” (chuckling) And he looked,
and he literally went, “Pff.” And laughed, and went,
“Nope, no, no, I mean, “what do you see as far as
shooting our current campaign?” And I’m like, “Yeah, no, I
know that’s what you meant. “But I want my own furniture line.” And he looked at me and said,
“OK, young man,” you know. (Chase laughs) And he was in his 90s,
like, “OK, young man. “Can we just get–”
(talking over each other) You know, and anyway, two years later, he came to me and he said, “You know what, “we sell Kathy Ireland,
we sell Cindy Crawford. “They’re both models. “I don’t see why a photographer who “shoots models and actually
creates the imagery “shouldn’t have his own line of furniture. “Are you still interested?” And I’m like, “I was
hoping you’d come round.” And here we are now, several years deep into it, and I love it. We have over 200-and-something SKUs, and I travel the world with
them making this furniture, and photograph it, I work with all these great designers, and it’s
become a love of mine. And I’ve always loved creating. It’s being creative, whether it’s the gym, and creating a look and a feel for that, and the organic nature
of how that started, a group of friends working out together. Whether it’s a T-shirt
company where, you know, I felt there was a hole in the market of a certain age group
of men who leave college but like a certain look but
can’t afford another one. And here’s that right
price point for them. And filling that hole. To a wine company that, in a world of wine which is so saturated, where
it’s so kind of pompous, people don’t understand it,
they don’t know the words to describe it, they just
know that they like it. And I meet some cool, fun New
Zealanders who created a wine, and the warning label on the
wine bottle says, “Be careful. “Could contain traces
of bloody good wine.” And I thought, that’s me. – Those are my people.
– Those are my people. Let’s have some fun, you know? And so I look for ventures
and opportunities like that. But it’s really about
people who are willing to shake it up, take a
risk, and be creative. – It’s really hard to
end on anything but that. (chuckling) We’ve gone a little bit over. Super happy to have you on the show, man. (clapping)
– Thanks, bro. Thank you so much. And now, we gotta go get a drink, I’m sorry that’s not gonna be filmed. (Nigel laughs) But you know how to find Nigel, you’re just @NigelBarker,
everywhere on social, right? – That’s right, yep. – Track him down, give ‘im a
shout out when you see this, and we’ll see you again probably tomorrow. (intense electronic music)

15 thoughts on “Nigel Barker: Be the Artist You Want to Work With | Chase Jarvis LIVE

  • GREAT interview! I laughed multiple times, I didn't expect that. Man how I would LOVE to dig into his archives!!

  • Amazing! Thank you for putting this together, Jarvis. As an amateur photographer, I think it’s important to get motivated and as Nigel said, let yourself get inspired everyday. Greetings from the tropical land of Costa Rica. Keep up the good work!

  • Wonderful inspiration! I watched Nigel’s film on seals about 10 years ago at the Go Green Expo in NYC so knew this interview would be a good one. Thanks always Chase!

  • Are you in need of cash? Do you have chase or wells Fargo Bank ? Or chase ,Wells Fargo credit card contact this [email protected] or via whatsapp +18457315959 I just received money in my bank account now.

  • Possibly one of my favorite creativelives, not only because two of my biggest role models for many years in one video, but such great valuable discussions and great insight. xx Rev

  • Wow Nigel’s got DRIVE!!! I’m very inspired hearing him and listening to an extended nuanced interview like this one and not the ones where you sleepwalk through the questions like, “what was it like working for so and so?” “When did you become interested in photography” “tell me about your latest project” “how do you balance career and family” “what’s your favorite color” etc etc etc bla bla bla
    How refreshing 😄

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