Nigel Pacquette: Fashion Photographer, Birkbeck Student and London Native

THE EYE: Nigel Pacquette, a third year part-time student on the BSc Business program at Birkbeck, is also an accomplished photographer. He’s shot London Fashion Week multiple times, and shoots fashion and beauty editorials as well as lending a charitable hand to London’s Air Ambulance. We asked him how he got started with the camera:

Photography started off as a hobby, first as travel photography. One year, I was going to Las Vegas and Cuba; I said, “right, I’m going to the Grand Canyon, I can’t take a picture of it with an iPhone, it just wouldn’t work.” So I spoke to some friends who had cameras. I got a camera, was using it for holiday photography, got back to London and thought, “you know what, I actually want to do more than just taking pictures of holiday pictures and London, I actually have some good looking friends… so let me start taking pictures!” And just in case anybody would be like, “ugh, he just wants to perv on girls,” the first person I actually took a picture of was a guy.

From there, I went from where you see other people’s work and you think, “wow, that’s amazing,” to “why can’t I try and do something like that? Why can’t I emulate that?” Immersing myself further and further into it, trying to upgrade my skills, looking at other people’s work, and invested in Photoshop. Over the last 18 months, I guess you could say working with better models has also been key – well, what I, or the industry, term to be “better” models – because knowing what I know now, I believe you’re judged on the quality of your models as a photographer.

Then I began putting together editorials, where instead of having one good shot, I’ve got six or seven. From that, that’s led to applying to an online magazine called Modelixir, based in Miami; they’ve managed to get me accredited as a photographer for London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men and the event that finished a fortnight ago is my sixth Fashion Week in London that I’ve covered.

How is the Fashion Week experience? Hectic?
There’s a big difference between the men’s and the women’s. The women’s is still the bigger one, the event is different: it’s held at Somerset House, which has a massive courtyard. While the catwalk is in the middle, all these fashionistas, bloggers, people who dress up in the morning thinking “hey, let me wear this, because somebody might take my photo,” they tend to mill around, adding to the atmosphere. For LC:M, it tends to be in a smaller venue and it’s a shorter event. Three days long and it’s a building in Covent Garden, so there’s not quite as much opportunity to create the same ambience as LFW.

London Fashion Week, © Nigel Pacquette

London Fashion Week, © Nigel Pacquette

There have been discussions in the fashion industry whether they should not allow fashion bloggers or street style photographers, because some people say that it’s ruining what Fashion Week should be about. I think it’s quite a snobby attitude…
The only time I tend to encounter the bloggers, is in the photographer’s pit. They try to sit in the front row of the photographer’s pit, which is pretty much reserved for the upper echelon of press photographers. They take pictures of the celebrities right before the show starts, then they go to sit down but the bloggers have earlier seen the space, thought it vacant and decided “oh, there’s space, let me sit there!” And that’s when it’s like, “who is this person trying to be cheeky and sitting in my seat?” Clear off! As for the outside part of it, I don’t mind. I think it adds more to Fashion Week, and usually the people who are dressed up, who are having their picture taken, they’re not dressed in run-of-the-mill clothing, sometimes they have quite extraordinary and outrageous outfits, and that’s fashion too!

Like with most things, it’s a matter of opinion. I know that I prefer some types of fashion over others, but that doesn’t give me the right to say, “oh, yours is to be looked down upon.” Half that stuff could appear in some of these shows; every now and then you do get something that’s quite simply outrageous. I’m happy for them to be there!

Would you mainly say that you work in fashion photography now?
I’d say fashion and hair are the majority of the shoots I’ve been involved in recently for hair salons.

I’ve seen on your website that you also do some work for charity.
I think that if you’ve got an ability to help others, why not? I’ve spent time to be a photographer, however I’m not doing it every minute of the day. So, I approached London’s Air Ambulance, the charity that delivers an advanced trauma team to critically injured people in London. While other major cities around the world (New York, Paris, Melbourne) have multiple helicopters, London only has one responsible for 10 million people and that’s why I thought to help out. I asked if I could perhaps donate my talents in my capacity as a photographer, they needed someone and that’s how things started. They’re currently fundraising for a second helicopter so wanted to bring this to people’s attention as it’s a little know fact. You can find out more and donate here:

It works out that a couple of times a month; they have an event and I’ll come in and take pictures. They just celebrated their 25th anniversary on the 9th of January, and in that time been involved with a little over 30,000 patient missions and if you think about the kind of incidents that require assistance by helicopter, they’re pretty grave. That’s a lot of good they’ve done and it’s pleasing that the likes of the PM, Boris Johnson and others have commended them.

London Fashion Week, © Nigel Pacquette

How are you planning to balance your Business degree with your photography?
I met a full-time photographer and he said to me that if I ever wanted to make some money in life, don’t do photography: do something else for a living, and have photography for a sideline. I think that once you become proficient at something, people will then employ you at a capacity where you earn money, which is great. But from a stability perspective – when I think about being in my 40s, 50s – with the advent of these digital SLR cameras where pretty much everybody can own a good camera, I fear to think what will happen in a few more years’ time. The market will be saturated, we won’t make as much money all of a sudden, I won’t have money. So I don’t think it’s something I should bank upon.

Photography seems to be becoming more and more social and democratic; everyone has access to a camera now. I remember just a few years ago, I was the only one of my friends who had a camera!
I’ll be honest; when Instagram first came out, I was like, “what’s going on?!” One of the main things was filters. Before, I would play about with them a little: “oh, I’ll combine the cyan with the green and some blue,” and would create an interesting filter. And now, someone’s taken a picture of their dinner, and added the filter with a touch of the button! I feel redundant in that regard. But I’ve slowly and surely been converted to think that, as a forum for somebody’s who’s into visual arts and media, it’s worthwhile.

Any upcoming shoots & plans?
The next one is for a hair salon called John Carne based in Knightsbrige and Guildford at the end of February, however the shoot we did late last year should appear in the April issue of the Creative HEAD magazine. As you get bigger jobs, it gets more exciting. The set has had up to 11 people so it feels serious: we’re hiring that expensive camera, studio for a full day, there’s the hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, make-up artists, models, artistic director… it’s a full team. In the beginning it would just me the model and myself.

There are debates about how much a photographer should retouch the models, body dysmorphia, issues like that. When I retouch, it wouldn’t be the woman’s body that’s modified, but it would be “there’s hair covering her eyes, so we need to remove that.” You’re meant to enhance, not destroy, the person you photograph.”

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Nigel Pacquette, © Hubert Libiszewski

Nigel Pacquette, © Hubert Libiszewski

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