Meet the 21-year-old Student Who Shot Barneys New York's Latest Lookbook

Rufus Barkley / Courtesy Barneys

How Rufus Barkley went from skater kid to high fashion photographer.

A story about giving back is always welcome news. In Barneys New York’s case, such an announcement has the added bonus of sparking some sense of quirky creativity—the department store is nothing if not innovative when it comes to all things visual.

Enter: Barneys New York Foundation’s “Perfect Shot Competition,” a launchpad initiative designed to give students of the arts (at either Parsons School of Design or the School of Visual Arts) a chance at working with the retailer to photograph a digital lookbook, which dropped Thursday on barneys.com.

The BNY Foundation has also bestowed a $5,000 scholarship to the winner (selected from over 300 hopefuls): So-Cal’s 21-year-old Rufus Barkley.


Rufus Barkley / Courtesy Barneys

Before getting into the details of Barkley’s material—and, often, his material is quite compelling—a few details regarding the contest itself: students who entered the program must have maintained a 3.0 GPA throughout the application process. They also needed to submit a comprehensive portfolio, which would be evaluated by Barneys New York SVP/Creative Director Matthew Mazzucca, and Barneys New York VP, Digital Creative Director Christopher Martinez. The pair chose Barkley as the winner in September.

Barkley’s route to photography is either totally atypical or entirely appropriate, given one’s expectations of artistic development: at age 18, he was a chef, a gas station attendant at Chevron, and an overnight radio DJ. He had no drawing skills. But he could skate, and grew up in California’s “skate psych-rock scene.” He’s also a little peculiar: “I relate best to those who experienced a fair amount of unexplainable events.”

His imagery, subsequently, is a kind of polychrome jigsaw of techniques—combined with a heathy dose of trendy Insta-appeal—ranging from the wildly exposed subject to the out-of-focus portrait to the chaotic-yet-serene, asymmetrical and semi-discofied composition. The viewer can feel the pull of that Los Angeleno verve, but also sense the eccentric slickness for which Barneys New York is so renowned.