Tips + Trends

Unpacked: Nigel Barker’s Lens on Life and Everyday Beauty

No matter where Nigel Barker travels, he’s never without his eye for beauty, or his camera bag. (Photo: Marcus Brooks)

A renowned photographer. A judge on “America’s Next Top Model.” A husband and father of two, Nigel Barker is many things. But above all, he’s a man who chooses to celebrate life. Whether he’s on a fashion shoot in Rome or in Haiti to document its people recovering from an earthquake, Nigel knows how to stage a story by revealing the beauty of the personalities in it.

When the AC Hotels’ “Unpacked Project” asked him how he combines it all, Barker simply told us he focuses on the things that matter the most at that specific moment. Add to that his great eye for beauty and you understand why we were curious to hear what makes him tick.

“Luxury to me is about the things you can’t buy,” Barker says. “Like time, the look of my wife who’s asleep, or a stranger who opens a door for you. When you travel as much as I do, you don’t go to a hotel to be overloaded with more information. Unlike my home, which is a collection of memories from all over the world, AC Hotels is like a blank canvas that offers the opportunity to be fresh and create. That’s exactly what I want from a good hotel. That, no carpet and a good night’s sleep.”

SEE MORE: The Unpacked Project Interviews Architect Rem D. Koolhaas on Pushing Boundaries

Nigel Barker’s Travel Essentials

Here are the items Barker needs when hitting the road:

(Photo: Nigel Barker)


My iPod helps me to set the tone on a shoot, and in my hotel room. It’s a pretty desperate state of affairs when it goes missing. I engraved it with my name and return address.


(Photo: Nigel Barker)

Travel Wallet

When you travel, you’re always searching for things. This wallet holds all my vital documents. It has been in the same pocket of my bag for the past ten years.


(Photo: Nigel Barker)

Cuff Link Box

This box belonged to my grand father. He traveled with it and now I travel with it. I always carry it in my hand luggage. It makes me happy to open it and wear my cuffs.


(Photo: Nigel Barker)

Battery Pack

Whether I’m in the desert or the jungle, this mobile energy pack powers my phone, my laptop or my cameras two times over.


(Photo: Nigel Barker)

Photography Bag

People laugh at me because I never let go of my photo bag. No one can carry it, not even the bellman, and when I’m at home I sleep laying over it. If my wife is jealous about it? I don’t know.

Along with the secrets of his photography bag, Nigel offers three essentials to take a great landscape photo:

  • Look for a story. What’s the heartbeat of the place you’re in? What is it about the people? The weather? The history? Soak that up and channel it in your shot.
  • Use natural light. Early in the morning or late afternoon are the best times to take a photograph. We call that the golden hour.
  • Use long exposures. Use a tripod, or if you don’t have one, hold the camera very still, place it on a wall and let it soak up the natural light.