“One of my favorite shoot locations!” – Nigel Barker
For years we’ve watched in awe as the world-famous fashion photographer Nigel Barker has used our Hudson Valley sculpture park for his photo shoots, capturing mesmerizing images that blend the beauty of his subjects and that of Opus 40’s natural and manmade surroundings.
We recently interviewed Nigel — who was born in London, met his wife, model and CoverGirl representative Cristen Chin, in Milan, and resides in New York City and Upstate New York — how he ended up in Woodstock, and what it is about Opus 40 that makes the six and a half-acre landmark so special.
A Q&A with Nigel Barker
1. When did you move to the Mid-Hudson Valley, and what was it about this area that attracted you?
We first started visiting the Woodstock area when my friend and roommate in New York City, renowned artist Ford Crull, first invited us up to his place to visit in the late 1990s. That was in the fall, and we trekked Overlook Mountain, so you can imagine the breathtaking views. Over the next several years we continued to visit Woodstock, staying in B&Bs and renting homes for long weekends.
We got married, started having children, and Woodstock really became our go-to getaway from the city.
It was about 2008 when we first started looking for property in the area, and our poor REALTOR must have shown us a hundred places before we found the perfect home in Bearsville.
What started as a weekend home transitioned into our permanent residence when we realized that we were yearning all week to return back to the country — and slightly dreading, all weekend, our return back to the city.
It was time to switch the equation and give everyone — the kids and our pets, especially — the life they all deserved.
2. We hear you, and the Barkers were far alone in making that permanent migration. How many times do you think you’ve visited Opus 40, and when was your first visit?
We visited Opus 40 on our second trip to the area and were blown away. It was clearly a very special place, not just visually but spiritually, and immediately became a sight we wanted to share and show off to all our visiting friends and family.
3. That makes us gush! What do you remember from you first time here?
It’s completely unexpected, down an unassuming lane, and then all of a sudden unfolding in front of your eyes: this otherworldly monolithic stone wonderland that has been built painstakingly with incredible precision but with a Dr. Seuss-like imagination.
4. Wow, that might be the best description yet of our sculpture park and what Harvey Fite created here. So, what makes Opus 40 worth the repeat visit?
We have visited in all the fall, spring and summer, and each time it’s different. It’s amazing how this giant rock world that doesn’t move or change can reflect and soak up the seasons so uniquely and transform you to a completely different place and other time.
The monochromatic nature of the gray slate allows your mind to relax but the mountains and sky looming all around fill in the colors, creating a master landscape fit for Narnia.
5. Never mind, that’s the best description yet! Thanks, Nigel. As someone who’s shot all over the world, what is it about Opus 40 that makes it a fitting location for a photo shoot, specifically?
Anywhere you can fantasize and create your own story is a fabulous place for a photoshoot. But that said, Opus 40 is not just one location but hundreds, from the big picture and open areas to the tiny hidden spots and corridors.
The detail is stunning, and yet when you pull out and look at the whole place at once there is still so much detail it’s impossible not to weave a massive narrative of what was and could be.
6. Interesting. Do you have a favorite shot you’ve capture here?
For over 20 years I have been working on a series of images of my wife and sister in law, which is a photographer’s dream project, really, working with muses who you love and know so well.
Clearly, we knew Opus 40 would need to be a part of our vision, and on one bright sunny day we shot a stunning collection of images with Crissy and Kimmy, also known as the Chin Twins, who were instantly moved and inspired by the environment, helping us all to create a timeless addition to our story.