It’s not too often when Austin gets to play host to headlining names in the fashion business so when it does happens it is quite a treat.
Nigel Barker, a noted fashion photographer, judge on the highly-rated show America’s Next Top Model and fashion authority made a stop in Austin to talk about his newly released book Models of Influence. It was not only a talk about his personal experience being a photographer, but it was also a trip down memory lane of fashion and the women who contributed to the many years of fashion history. He mentioned the book is more about ethnicity and diversity.
The crowd gathered early to get a seat at Book People and the one thing you immediately notice when Nigel entered the room to stand at the podium is not only is he extremely handsome, but he is tall, really tall.
He thanked the group for coming and shared his daily travel story about his trek to actually get to Austin. Unfortunately, Nigel’s flight from NYC was one of the lucky ones that was unable to land in Austin and had to be diverted to Houston. Weather be damned Nigel was going to get to his on time and he did.
He started off his presentation with a photograph of his mother and shared that this book is a story of ethnicity and diversity. Nigel described his mother as a beautiful woman, a strong biracial woman, half English and half Sri Lankan. Back in those times being biracial was not as widely accepted as it is now so she faced many challenges. And Nigel’s grandmother also experienced the same challenges as a biracial woman herself and was the first Sir Lankan women to drive a car.
Nigel’s mother actually won the Miss Sir Lankan beauty pageant and when another contestant complained she was not 100% Sir Lankan, she was disqualified. She, however, went on to have a very successful modeling and acting career and even appeared in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Nigel modeled in his teens and dabbled being a photographer too. “I have been taking pictures since I was a kid. I got my first camera at the age of 12, my mother bought it for me, a Brownie. I learned to print at the age of 14, I was the school’s photographer. But I never really thought of it as a job really, added Barker in his strong English accent.
His original plan was to become a doctor but that plan was short-lived and photography became his passion and career. Barker remarked it is something you could do until you are old! And even thought Barker was not a professionally trained photographer he learned his craft like many photographers do…on the job.
The fifty models featured in his book Models of Influence span the many decades that have defined an era and the icon fashions that followed each decade. The 40’s started careers for models as advertising grew and brands found that a model could define a feeling which could turn into sales.
The 60’s were all about change, freedom of expression and minimalism. One model who may come to mind of that era was Twiggy. While her enormous exposure was something that has yet to be duplicated, did you know her modeling career lasted for about two years?
The 70’s were all about bringing out the sexy side in advertisements and the feminist movement and the 80’s the fitness craze was in full swing. Honestly, I just remember the 80’s being a decade of really bad hair and a lot of mascara.
Barker went on to describe how many models have made amazing strides in the industry and paved the way for future models. Models like Lauren Hutton, who appeared on 26 covers of Vogue and was the first to negotiate a contract deal worth a million dollars over three years instead of working by the hour. And Christy Brinkley has the longest contract with Cover Girl.
“Models also stand as a symbol time. One comes along and it shapes beauty”, said Barker. The book is a must have for any fashion-minded person or fashion history buff. It is a friendly reminder that each decade was and is defined not only by the designers and fashion trends of the season but also by the models.