A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Nigel Barker, renowned fashion photographer and judge of America’s Next Top Model. His new book, Nigel Barker’s Beauty Equation, offers beauty and fashion tips for every woman so she can be her best and most beautiful, from the inside out. But the book is much more than just an informative read – it prompts readers to get interactive online at www.beautyequation.com and share their photos and feelings! So what does this post have to do with shoes? Read on to find out (Nigel has a thing for shoes!), and to learn a bit more about the book.
Can you tell us about Beauty Equation…how do you define beauty?
The purpose of the book was to discuss beauty from an inner beauty attribute standpoint. All too often these days, when the conversation comes up, it’s often to do with skin-deep issues, and cosmetic surgery, do you have perfect skin, are you a certain size, height, build. As someone who works in the business of fashion and beauty, I think we have to distinguish between the modeling business and being truly beautiful. To capture a photograph that is iconic and timeless has nothing to do with if you’re a model or not. It has to do with the life you’re leading and your spontaneity, charisma and authenticity. Those are the things that, as a photographer, if you can capture them, bring your picture to life. When you utilize them as a person, you have the potential to be the beautiful people we can all be.”
One of the exciting things about the book is we’ve created at the end of each chapter a series of photo challenges, video challenges and written challenges and through a form of art therapy we call Photo Therapy, we ask the readers to examine themselves by taking photos of themselves embodying the attributes in these chapters, and uploading the photos to our website beautyequation.com where they can share their portfolios or keep them private. If they share them, then they can really start this conversation about beauty with the whole community.
How does beauty come through for you when you’re taking a photo/on film?
Your eyes are the windows to your soul. It doesn’t matter what your facade looks like if you’re not shining through your eyes, emoting, and lack passion or that spark. In a good photograph, you look at it, you believe it, you trust it, you’re drawn in by it. That’s why we talk so much about personality on Top Model.
What do you think about the re-emergence of more curvaceous, “real” women walking the runways and being featured in fashion editorials? Is this something that will stick?
I think things are changing, however the fashion business is trend-driven and things are going to come in and out of style, and we’ve had curvy models in the past. But I think advertising as a whole is taking a different look on the issue, and we don’t have so much curvy girls, but real women in general, whether they’re curvy, or flat chested, or boyish-shaped or older or younger, and I think that’s a healthy outlook. It’s about using common sense and promoting a healthy attitude and lifestyle instead of a body-mass index.
NOW ONTO SHOES…
How important are high heels to a woman’s appearance, and tell me about this rumor I’ve heard that you have a shoe fetish…?
I am fascinated by shoes, in fact, I buy all my wife’s heels. Even this morning she told me about a pair of heels she wanted to buy and I said, ‘Wait a second, let me check this out’, because I have a thing about feet and shoes in general. In fact, people have told me that I have a foot fetish. I also have a heel fetish. I love the construction of women’s shoes, it’s very smart engineering and beautifully done, and I like anything that is well-styled. A good heel is something that’s hard to come by, and when it’s done well…I’ve spent a small fortune in Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo in the past!
Christian Louboutin Hyper Prive Peep-Toe Pumps, $865 at SaksFifthAvenue.com
Does that mean Christian Louboutin your favorite designer, er, your wife’s favorite shoe designer?
Yes, I would definitely say he would be my favorite designer, for sure.
What tips can you give our readers for walking gracefully in high heels? And looking great in a photograph in general?
I have been fairly shocked by how badly some people walk in heels! I’m not a cross-dresser but I have tried to walk in [heels] and I actually did a pretty good job! (laughing) It’s one of those things, you’ve gotta kind of commit to it, work through the pain. Realize this is what you’re signing up for. When you stand on your toes, it immediately gives you extra height, and what happens to is it makes all of your muscles tense and tighten look tauter, and your physicality is accentuated. And it works fantastically in pictures, and in fact, sometimes when I’m photographing a model above the neck, I’ll ask them to put heels on because it changes the look in thier face.
That makes total sense, because when I put on a pair of heels, I instantly feel more confident. And I bet my readers would say the same! Lastly, can you tell us a little bit about what charities you’re passionate about, and what other projects you have in the works?
I shot Runway Relief last month, which was an ad campaign for Nine West where the proceeds being raised went to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. It’s a lot of fun and poignant when various elements of the fashion industry can collide and do something which is more about being a role model than a fashion model. And as a personal note, I just signed up as the first male ambassador for the United Nation Foundation’s new charity Girl Up, just launched at the beginning of October. I’m also working on a documentary film for the Humane Society of the United States and the Shark-Free Marina Initiative, an initiative to stop shark finning.
We’re already working on our next book, called Blossoming Beauties (click for a sneak peek!), a compilation of pregnant nude photographs that I’ve taken over the past two years. Over 60 women of all different walks of life are featured, all in black and white, and it’s a piece to really celebrate pregnancy in all its glory, and life in general. I have two kids of my own, and my wife appears in the book pregnant with both children. The book should be released by September of next year.
Thanks so much, Nigel!
More ways to keep up with Nigel Barker: