Nigel Barker’s Experience at Oak Bluffs

1216322954Late last week, we learned that noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker would attend the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament to photograph the event for the Humane Society of the United States.

We caught up with the reality television star and got his thoughts about the shark hunt.

This weekend’s competition on Martha’s Vineyard was the first Barker ever saw in person. “I’ve tried to avoid them in the past,” he told us. “But at some point in your life you stop avoiding things and have to deal with them.”

He cites the plummeting shark population as the reason he’s opposed to hunts like the one at Oak Bluffs —the Humane Society reports that the population of large sharks has dropped 80 percent in the past 20 years.

“I’m very aware that a shark tournament doesn’t go out and kill all the sharks,” he says. “But what it does do, I feel, is breed contempt for an animal that’s being villainized in a movie like Jaws. We offer a huge cash reward for catching the largest fish, we drag that fish in, hang, draw, and quarter it in public, and everyone stares and takes photographs.”

Barker also took issue with the carnival atmosphere that surrounded the event, and as he walked through the crowd he also snapped pictures of women “dancing and smiling in bikinis drinking beer” and others who had their “mouths dropped down in utter horror.” (He told us that nobody made a Tyra Banks-inspired shark with “dead eyes” joke, although some fishermen knew who he was.)

“I wasn’t lecturing people. Not like I am with you now on the phone,” Barker says self-deprecatingly. “I’m more heated now that I saw it. It was really hard to see fellow human beings behaving in such a crazed manner.”

After hearing Barker’s account of his run-in with the tournament organizers, we’d say that’s a bit of an understatement.

“We were targeted by people who were running the event who came up to us, bullied us, screamed at us, and were very unfriendly, and in a very unnecessary manner,” he says. “None of us were carrying any placards, we weren’t canvassing anybody. We were ordered off the premises or we’d be arrested. They got six guys to come out, one of which was carrying a huge knife covered in blood, and came right up to our face.”

No! Don’t touch that beautiful face!

You can read Nigel Barker’s account of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, and see his photographs from the event, on his blog later this evening.