‘ANTM’ judge Nigel Barker launches new photo project


Photographer Nigel Barker served as a judge for 17 cycles of “America’s Next Top Model,” predicting who will be the next face of fashion. Then, he served as the host of another fashion-based reality TV competition, “The Face.”

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But on Tuesday, June 11, the New York City resident traveled to Southbury for a photography project that is far different from his days of shooting fashion models and fabulous celebrities.

Barker visited Monarch Southbury on Main Street South where he spent several hours taking portraits of the seniors who live at the facility.

Asked what inspired the project, which has taken Barker to other Monarch facilities in New Rochelle, N.Y. and Massachusetts, Barker explained, “I’ve been taking pictures for 30 years and I’ve known as a fashion photographer and a portrait photographer, and I’ve photographed some of the most famous people in the world from, you know, Taylor Swift to Tyra Banks… When I was first asked about this project, several people said to me it’s such a step away from what you normally do. And right, yes. But what I’m most interested in is people’s stories is the narrative behind the photograph. And no matter who I’m photographing at that moment, regardless of their celebrity, it’s about their story. So you have to kind of crack that facade to get a really great shot.”

Photographing the elderly, said Barker, is about getting to the root of their story.

For instance, one of the residents, Barker photographed toward the end of the afternoon was Germaine LeVasseur. LeVasseur was originally a resident of Trinidad and Tobago when it was under British rule. And as a British citizen, she was able to dance for the queen as a young girl.

As Barker photographed LeVasseur, he asked her about her favorite music. She told him calypso. Barker and his assistant searched online for some calypso music for LeVasseur to dance to as she was photographed. And for a brief moment, with camera still on hand, Barker had a little dance with his subject. As LeVasseur shifted into a coquettish smile, Barker snapped away.

Barker also photographed Maureen Sullivan. He spoke to her about her family and travels. The photographer also complimented her on her appearance and let her know that probably could have been a model when she was young. That elicited a broad smile fro the subject.

“One gentleman we had in here today was talking about Joan Crawford and superstars of their time and how he knows them and they used to hang out in Texas and Hollywood. It sounds almost like make believe. But he’s got the photographs,” said the fashion photographer.

“When you shoot elderly people, they’ve got a huge story and a massive lifetime,” said Barker. “And they’re not intimidated (at a photo shoot) in the sort of the same way as often a young person might be.”

The fashion photographer explained, “One may think the beauty is in youth, actually the beauty is in the story and the history.”

“Time and time again everybody I’ve photographed for this whole project for Monarch Communities has unbelievable stories,” said Barker. “I just photographed a man who’s 100 years old. He’s standing up, chatting with me, talking about his life, all the places that he’s been, the things that he’s done, the countries that he’s been to, his children, the different presidents that he’s seen and referencing them in in a way that puts everything in perspective.”

“I think that we live in a time where we’ve sort of lost perspective in many ways,” said Barker. “Culturally …. we don’t put (the elderly) on the pedestal that I believe we should. If you look, currently, we have a president (Joe Biden) who’s basically 80 and we have a potential presidential candidate (Donald Trump) who is also almost 80. Clearly, our elderly and our seniors are quite capable of running countries.”

The photographs he has been taking for this project likely will land in an exhibit, said Barker, and possibly a book. Additionally, some of the photographs will be put on display at the Monarch communities that he has been photographing.

Additionally, he said, “I’ve been posting it on my social media… The reaction… has been incredible. People love it. People are asking me to do this now all over the country.”