“For me, life is about taking risks that I create in order to bring worlds together. If you live life well, hopefully once is enough.”
Charismatic, elegant, and full of l'air de sage, Nigel Barker is a fascinating individual of diverse talents whose most recent collaboration with Art Van Elslander of Art Van Furniture has revolutionized the manner in which both style and fashion insiders and the general public view furniture, cosmopolitan elegance, and the comfort of high-quality furniture for all occasions and settings.
PdM had the pleasure of meeting Nigel, an internationally-acclaimed photographer, author, spokesperson, filmmaker, and former model. Within the industry, he is best known for his participation as a judge and photographer on America's Next Top Model. Currently, he is the host of The Face, a modeling-themed reality series that follows three supermodel coaches as they compete with each other to find 'the face' of major brands.
I sat down with Nigel to pick his brain regarding the exciting endeavors with Art Van, his career as a fashion photographer, and the high-caliber collaboration with Art Van Furniture and the exclusive Woodridge store opening in Illinois.
PdM: Tell us a bit about Art Van Elslander and the exciting Art Van Furniture collaboration.
Nigel Barker: Art Van is a man who built his business from the ground up. When you meet people in Detroit, where he started his business, they talk about Mr. Van and his success and how proud they are to have a piece of his furniture in their home.
Art and I became friends several years ago while vacationing. We became friends because of our similar passions for what we do: his passion for furniture, my passion for fashion. Mr. Van has always been passionate about fashion, and many people in fashion are fascinated with furniture.
The way we decorate our house is a style statement: they all say something about who we are. We knew we spoke the same language, and we tried to take shape of this collaboration.
PdM: This collaboration is definitely a step in the right direction for both parties and the catalog, which is itself a work of art, is an exceptional example of the wonderful things that can happen when you bring two very talented individuals together. What was the inspiration behind the latest Art Van catalog and why now?
NB: People like change, and they like to be surprised. At the same time, the main thing I keep hearing from people is, why hasn't this collaboration (between Art Van and I) already happened? I love hearing this!
This (collaboration) is great, and it isn't just one dimensional. (The catalog) creates a story: we painted a picture for all to see. The models involved were professional models and they knew how to take direction, but every photographer is different. I am a portrait photographer, and I have worked in fashion for years. My angle in fashion is to tell the story through the people: it's the people in our lives that make us who we are. In this case, I am telling a story through people and furniture, and this is very powerful.
PdM: You mentioned that this collaborations is very powerful: what is the reception Art and yourself hope for the catalog and the new Art Van Furniture Woodridge store?
NB: The relationship between Art Van and I developed very organically: it wasn't business at all. He asked if I wanted to get involved with the catalog. This man, who has a tremendous empire, so humbly asked if I wanted to shoot his catalog and I immediately believed this was a wonderful opportunity to do something different and stand outside of my comfort zone. It really is a magical collaboration.
The reason this relationship has developed into a business relationship is because of our dual passion for telling stories. Models, furniture, a wild animal: everything has a narrative. What you're thinking about your personal story is what makes you attractive to the world. Ignoring that in any picture is a mistake. What we're looking to create is something that speaks of the times and to speaks to the times. The great thing is that we are here now and that we are moving away from things that anyone has done.
PdM: Many of our readers wonder if there is a difference between capturing the essence of furniture in a photograph versus capturing a person: is there a difference?
NB: I don't think there is a difference. People are always looking for the differences, but I approach everything the same way. My object is to look for the beauty in everything I shoot: I'm always looking for the most striking light to bring the personality. You always look for the story, and if there isn't one you create one. This is the human condition: we look to tell stories. I have things from my childhood that have a sense of story, place, and personality, so I want to bring in people, the family, and so many different stories from fashion, to style, to lifestyle for the Art Van collection. If you look through the catalog, we allowed for creativity to develop.
The catalog is full of stories, and they are stories I hope everyone will appreciate.
For more exclusive developments and never-before seen images of Nigel Barker, catch the premier issue of Allez, PdM Magazine, launching at the end of May.
Until then, bisous, bisous.