Nigel Barker, Baby Seal Rescuer

Our favorite America’s Next Top Model judge—at least since Janice Dickinson left the show—"noted fashion photographer" Nigel Barker gave a lengthy interview to Gothamist in which he discussed his work with the Humane Society’s Protect Seals program and his recent trip to Canada where he photographed the creatures for an exhibit at 401 Projects.

Did you know that the former model grew up on a farm with pigs and cows and chickens? Neither did we! Read on for more as the chiseled-faced photographer talks about why the baby seal hunt was too intense for fellow brit Paul McCartney, his Meatpacking District studio, and his membership at Soho House.

On getting involved with the Humane Society:
England is sort of a nation of animal lovers, and I grew up in a family that had dozens of dogs and was a big fan of looking after animals. That said, it wasn’t as if we were vegetarians or anything, it was just about treating animals with respect and the farms I grew up around, all the farms knew their cows and horses by name, even the pigs and chickens.

On photographing the seals:
We went up twice over the course of two weeks. The first trip was the birth, the second was the hunt. I took over from the previous spokesperson, Paul McCartney, who went for the birth. He never went to the hunt for obvious reasons: It’s traumatic and people don’t want to see it, and it’s also extremely dangerous.

On giving personal tours to anyone who comes to the exhibit (run, don’t walk!):
Anyone who comes the exhibit, and they have a question, they can ask me what I saw and what happened and what I think. And I think that’s a very important thing and somewhat refreshing today when everything’s so rehearsed and it’s all press releases.

On having his studio in the Meatpacking District:
I came here originally because it was the only place I could afford. When I got my studio, it was an active meatpacker downstairs and you had to climb over packets of meat or push them aside to get to the door. I remember carrying my tripod and cameras and there would be swinging carcasses on either side. So it was pretty hard-core, especially with my feelings about all of that.

On where he likes to go in the newly cleaned up neighborhood:
I’m a member of the Soho House, and we love that too. I took my son there for swimming lessons this morning, and I try and do that because I can go there at 7 a.m. and spend a couple of hours with him… you feel like you’re at the Riviera when you’re in fact in the heart of the Meatpacking District which couldn’t be further from the Riviera. Nigel Barker, Baby Seal Rescuer