cult of personality

Nigel Barker Talks Baby Seals, ‘ANTM,’ and His Kids

Ice master and seal champion Nigel Barker.Photo: Nigel Barker

This Friday Nigel Barker’s photography exhibit “A Sealed Fate” opens to the public in New York. A spokesperson for the Humane Society’s Project Seals, Barker documented the birth and hunt of baby seals in Northeastern Canada. The hope is that cute photographs of the fuzzy wuzzies taken by the nation’s favorite noted fashion photographer will inspire us all to help him save them (though Barker documented the hunt, those images are excluded from the exhibit since it’s a “celebration of their lives”). But this isn’t just a way for Barker to tie his name to something. In a really, really long interview on Gothamist he proves that when it comes to baby seals, loving animals, and the meatpacking district, he really knows his stuff. We read the whole thing so you wouldn’t have to and present you with the best bits.

Display of seal knowledge No. 1: “Beater” seals aren’t as beautiful as white seals, but they’re just as lovable.

One of the big things actual sealers and pro-seal hunt people say is that the pictures of the beautiful white coats are misleading … because they fall off and become these things called “ragged jackets.” Ironically, they are called “beaters” because the seals can’t swim and are just beating around. At that age, when seals are 12 days old, people can legally hunt them. My point was, yes, they are not beautiful little white coated seals, but they are still very beautiful and they are still babies, and I went up there to photograph them at that [beater] stage as well. And the exhibit shows all stages of their life in that short two weeks prior to their deaths.

Display of seal knowledge No. 2: This isn’t about fame. It’s about stopping the Canadians.

Hopefully it’ll really move people to see that I didn’t do this for the limelight, that I’m really putting a lot of time and effort in this … We had an exhibit of my photographs in the House of Commons in London, and the European Union is considering banning all seal products … Norway owns 90% of all seal-processing plants in Canada, and if the demand goes down, then the supply [has no nowhere to go]. If we can’t stop the Canadians, we can try to stop the Norwegians.

Display of seal knowledge No. 3: The seal hunt is really cruel.

We took doctors, vets, to look at the actual skulls of the seals and they determined the skulls didn’t even have enough damage to them to guarantee the seals were dead when their skins are removed. We came up with a percentage like 42% of all seals are alive when they are skinned.

But really, Barker’s working for the kids. Namely, his.

As a father of one and one on the way, I want to do what I can for the planet so my son can say, “Hey my dad made a difference and I can make a difference, too.” If we all act more responsibly, then we can make this a place worth living in.

Random gear shift: Barker didn’t really get the meatpacking-plant challenge on America’s Next Top Model either.

You know, I’m not party to the creative process, as far as what they decide to do. And when I saw that, I did think it was pretty weird.

Nigel Barker, Photographer [Gothamist]

Related: Nigel Barker’s Pun-tastic Baby-Seal Photography Exhibit

Nigel Barker Talks Baby Seals, ‘ANTM,’ and His Kids