~post Katie P.
Nigel Barker is perhaps best known as a co-star of sorts; he often works in the presence of supermodels and designers, and is recognizable to many as the guy on TV sitting next to Tyra Banks or Naomi Campbell. And he is that guy; he was a judge on 17 seasons of America’s Next Top Model with Banks, and just started work on The Face with Campbell. But he’s also a renowned documentarian, fashion photographer, and author, and when he stopped by Bookpeople this week with his new book Models of Influence, he was the star of the show.
Culling from more than 200, Barker narrowed the focus of Models of Influence down to profiles of “50 women who reset the course of fashion,” many of whom were the first or most prolific of their era, or who made famous a particular aesthetic that changed the industry. One member of the audience questioned the particular lack of representation of South Asian models on magazine covers and in spreads, a question Barker says he thinks of often, as the son of an English-Sri Lankan model. “It’s exactly conversations like these, with questions like yours, that change things,” he said. “This is an unprecedented time for fashion – it’s not up to agencies anymore, it’s up to photographers and social media. We’re changing what we want to see.” Barker’s presentation highlighted women who demanded better pay, better control over their personal brands, and who expanded what agencies (and the public) considered beautiful. His was an inspirational talk about the ways models since the 1940s (where the scope of his book begins) have made room for progress, with unflinching courage and self-assuredness, in a notoriously exclusive industry. We here at Bookpeople are already excited about the next 50.