Fashion photographer Nigel Barker has worked with some of the world's most famous women, yet two close to home have had the biggest influence on him.
“My Sri Lankan grandmother lived with us as I grew up, and [along with my mother] imparted her wisdom and stories from Sri Lanka to us every day. It personally helped me understand my identity better,” says Barker, who appears at Macy's Union Square for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on Wednesday.
“I hope attendees will learn a little bit about Sri Lanka and what being an Asian-Pacific American means,” he says. “It’s important to remember and celebrate where we all come from and what our heritage means, so we can better understand ourselves and to educate the world to promote tolerance, understanding and respect for diversity.”
Barker, who appears on TV’s “The Shot,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Face,” says he often felt misunderstood, growing up in London as the son of a Sri Lankan model mother (she was Miss Sri Lanka) and Irish-Portuguese father.
“Everyone was always asking me where I was from,” he recalls. “No one saw me as British, despite my accent, because I didn’t look the part.”
He discovered his heritage when he visited Sri Lanka at age 8. “It made a huge impression on me,” he says. “I remember seeing other little boys who had similar features to me, which was gratifying and grounding.”
Calling Sri Lanka “the pearl of the Indian Ocean” with incredible tea, cinnamon, beaches and boutique hotels, Barker says, “I want to give a face to a small island nation.”
During his visit to The City, he also is promoting his book “Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion,” which he calls a tribute to the many extraordinary models in his life, including his mother.
As he looks forward to seeing models of Asian-Pacific descent getting more exposure, he continues to be fascinated by women. He says, “I remember how both my mother and my grandmother went about their business, chores and life in general with grace, charm and humility. That has always inspired me and continues to do so today.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Macy’s, 170 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 6 p.m. May 27
Tickets: Free, register at https://apahm15.eventbrite.com
Note: Barker will greet those who purchase “Models of Influence” for $40.