This past summer was the grand opening of the AC Hotel Downtown Waterfront in Portland Maine and Nigel Barker (yes THAT Nigel Barker – “noted fashion photographer, Mr. Nigel Barker” – side note, Oscar went to high school with Eva Marcille) was the event’s guest speaker and he also held a photo contest asking local residents to show an image of theirs that reflects the vitality and history of the city. The top five finalists chosen by Nigel himself were then welcomed to do a photo walkabout with him as he gave an hour plus photography 101 class explaining how he gets the shots he does, how he looks for light, and how he works with the character and mood of the location to highlight it’s natural beauty.
And this girl – ME! – was hired to photograph the whole thing!
I’ve been a fan of his since the first season of America’s Next Top Model and I’ve watched every season live – even with viewing parties with fellow photographers. I loved it most when Nigel dissected a model’s pose, the look in their eyes, the angle of their limbs, the mood displayed via the tension of their body – and I especially loved it when he would get behind the camera for a photo assignment.
Watching another photographer in action is the best way to deepen your knowledge – you get to learn so much about their subtle conversations that in turn evoke emotion in the subject, you see their use of light to create emotion, and how they physically move about a space to get the images. It’s utterly fascinating (and it’s why I love to be the second photographer here and there when my schedule allows) so to get a chance to do that with friggin’ Nigel Barker is incredible!
I was nervous to photograph someone who I knew would be mentally breaking down what I was doing behind the camera – he even hosted his own show that did just that – and I knew he’d likely see the finished images as well so there were a lot of nerves to say the least – but I was up for it.
The day started off incredibly – so incredibly that as I was getting gear out of my car, I pulled my light stand out which snagged on my pants and I ripped them in my inner thigh up by my crotch.
A nice long tear too.
On wedding days I typically have a change of clothes because I climb all over things and am out in the water, woods, rain, and grass so it has come in handy – but that day, I neglected to pack anything. So there I was with a ripped pair of pants, just minutes from meeting Nigel. Thankfully the event was at a hotel and hotels always have those mini sewing kits so I ducked into an office and sewed myself up and was off to the races. Thank you, Heidi, for getting me that sewing kit!
I’m always a little nervous about meeting people I admire – you just never know how they will be and it can be a real downer if it goes sideways or if the person is just a garbage human but Nigel was awesome!
He had no issues with me photographing him, didn’t set up any boundaries for me, was always pleasant and funny, and even when I was laying on the ground getting shots or being right up near him, he never once shied away. I know that I too was respectful which I’m sure helped, but it was nice that he was so receptive to me.
Being a professional, I let the finalists have their time with him and purposely didn’t converse with him during the walkabout but he would occasionally approach me and laugh about something I did or said, or he’d get right down on the ground with me to take a photo from my angle. It was awesome! I’ve photographed weddings and other events with famous guests and it’s always a rule of mine to treat them with respect but never to fawn over them or anything – I’m there to work and being a pro in those situations is key. Nigel respected that but also treated me like a peer and was very welcoming the entire time.
After the walkabout, I was sweaty from the humidity but let’s be real, it was primarily from photographing someone of his caliber and at that point I got to spend a little more time with him as we took photos indoors with AC Hotel executives. After one shot he wanted to see the image I took (which is sheer terror to show your work to someone like him on the spot), and as he got close I joked and said, “great, I stink like crazy and now you’re going to know.” And he was like, “Your work isn’t that bad. Oh you mean actually physically smelling bad. Ohhhh.” knowing full well what I meant and from that point on I liked him even more. He’d approach me throughout the rest of the event and would joke around asking if I felt my work was getting better. Psh, I know my work is good :)
Like I mentioned before, I’ve photographed and hung around with a few famous people in both professional and personal circumstances and I’ve never asked for a picture with any of them (I once was a guest at P!nk’s tiny birthday party at her home in LA) just because it’s a boundary I feel shouldn’t be crossed – especially when working. But at the end of the night Nigel said, “Let’s do a picture!” so I got a photo with him and it was awesome because being the classy guy that he is, in the picture he’s mouthing “SHE STINKS” hahaha!
It was a great night and it was awesome to support this new beautiful waterfront hotel in Portland, Maine. The AC Hotel is a wonderful addition to downtown and the employees work hard to make sure guests are welcomed with great food, amazing drinks, rooms with views of that classic Maine coast and the employees are more than happy to help out-of-towners learn the spots around the city to visit.
I highly recommend checking them out for your stay, and for weddings happening in the Portland area, this would be an excellent hotel to have family stay where they’ll be right downtown with lots to see and walk to while getting that Maine experience. A must stay for sure!
If you’re interested, the local News Center Maine’s 207 show interviewed Nigel, and you can see that video with newscaster Amanda Hill HERE to learn more about how he approaches photography and get some views of the hotel too.
One more thing, I have to note that I’ve been a vegetarian for more than half of my life and am a massive animal lover so it was an honor to photograph Nigel who is done countless animal rights campaigns for shelters, protecting of seals, and more as well as being a pescatarian. People who love animals and fight for them will ALWAYS have a place in my heart.
Oh and Nigel and I use the same camera for shoots :) Onto the photos!
When Nigel reposts your photos to his personal Instagram account, it’s a good day