Nigel Barker, Photographer/Judge, America's Next Top Model

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 7, 2007

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Deserves props for: Getting behind the camera for some of Top Model's most electrifying model shots (see below) and bringing a sober touch to the show's fashionista panel of experts.

Top Model is now in its eighth cycle. By now, is there a science to the judging?

"Judging has become quite complicated in many respects. It's never a simple decision. What you see on TV--which is all of 15 minutes, if that--can often last hours. We've been known to go 12 hours, if you can believe it. Luckily we've got it down to a fine art now."

Reality show cameras can create plenty of unflattering angles. Is that an issue when you're trying to mold a would-be supermodel?

"I think the reality is the American public has shown that a celebrity doesn't mean someone who's perfect in all respects. Someone who's a top model doesn't need to necessarily have the most perfect image. Most often what they're looking for is someone who's real."

What do you make of Tyra Banks' recent battle with the media over her alleged weight gain?

"I find the whole thing extraordinarily rude. It got blown out of proportion. The reality is she's an extremely healthy and fit lady. I think the whole thing is ironic. The press is making such a big deal that models are too skinny going down the runways. There's no happy ground here."

Does the show do anything to meet halfway?

"We always talk about having a healthy lifestyle. This season we have two plus-size girls. I think it's the most we've ever had. It represents the fact that the industry's changing, and there are plus-size divisions in the big agencies. The body type of America has changed too, and it needs more representation."

What have been your photographic highpoints?

"The bullfight shoot [in season seven] was exhilarating for me. At one point I was taking shots of the bull in action and I couldn't tell how close the bull was to me. My assistant grabbed the camera out of my hand in midframe. I just missed getting completely flattened by the bull, and actually ripped my shirt in the process. In Thailand [in season six] the day we were shooting we had to constantly stop because of major torrential rain coming down. I got electrocuted six times on set that day."

What changes has the show gone through since its inception?

"When it started in its infancy, no one had heard of the show. Now we get tens of thousands of people to show up every place we come. This season the girls know their stuff. It's changed the whole dynamic. People will sit there in judging and say, 'In show three, season four, didn't you say so and so?' You say, 'Yes, maybe I did. Scratch that.' Or maybe, 'We're allowed to contradict ourselves. Shut up.'"

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