OH SHIT! Terry Richardson's not the ironically angelic figure we all would love to pretend that he is, as countless models are coming forward with some truly disturbing allegations of sexual harassment. I know, I know, it's hard to believe that such a funloving, "thumbs-up"-wielding dude could be capable of nasty treatment to his female subjects... especially when he's made high art out of placing his gigantic dick and even more gargantuan ego in front of the camera while degrading the young models that provide him with such "raw" material. But the sexual fodder presented in his images is not all the consensual fun and games it's made out to be: be it through manipulating young, powerless models into performing sexual acts on him, requesting to be called "Uncle Terry" by his subordinates, or having assistants on hand to wipe the cum off of his models when he's finished with them... these are just a few of the disgusting accusations flying around.
It all started with supermodel Ria Rasmussen confronting Richardson about his skeevy ways two weeks ago at Paris Fashion Week:
"I told him what you do is completely degrading to women. I hope you know you only fuck girls because you have a camera, lots of fashion contacts and get your pictures in Vogue. Instead of arguing with me, Terry ran out of the bar. Then the next day, he called my agency and complained that I called him names in front of clients in Paris. It was the most cowardly thing I have ever seen."
After Rasmussen allowed herself to be vocal on the topic, model Jamie Peck shared the gory details of her encounter with Richardson on a shoot that eventually wound up in Purple magazine:
"He spoke in the effeminate tones of someone trying very hard not to come off as sexually threatening despite the fact that he was basically walking around in a hipster pedophile costume."
"I told him I had my period so I wanted to keep my underwear on, and he asked me to take my tampon out for him to play with. "I love tampons!" he said, in that psychotically upbeat way that temporarily convinces so many girls that what's fun for Uncle Terry is fun for them."
"I’m not sure how he maneuvered me over to the couch, but at some point he strongly suggested I touch his terrifying penis... This is where I zoom out on the situation. I can remember doing this stuff, but even at the time, it was sort of like watching someone else do it, someone who couldn’t possibly be me because I would never touch a creepy photographer’s penis. The only explanation I can come up with is that he was so darn friendly and happy about it all, and his assistants were so stoked on it as well, that I didn’t want to be the killjoy in the room. My new fake friends would’ve been bummed if I’d said no."
People have become familiar with Richardson's flashy, sexually charged imagery, and it has in turn become extremely popular. He's got power, and it's not a secret. He is a darling of the fashion and photography worlds, an inescapable presence in the hipster sphere of relevance. However, as the awful truth continues to seep out, it's hard not to look at these images and ponder what's really been going on. I'm no prude, and I undoubtably love shock value, but there is something very serious and very wrong when a certain line gets crossed, and Terry Richardson has crossed that line.
The thing about Terry Richardson is that he has become such an iconic figure in modern photography. He has always been one to cause a stir among people with his images. They're rude, shocking, and yet have an undeniable sense of humor that many can't help but be amused by. His pictures show a seedy underbelly to an otherwise glamorous lifestyle that people really eat up. What's not to love about watching beautiful people strip down to nothing but their jewels and their skivvies to get a little raunchy with one of the top fashion photographers in the world? It's painted as such a lushy, desirable place to be, yet the reality of what's really happening makes one want to take a shower.
And perhaps that's what should be taken from this: The messages being sent out as to what's cool/desirable/acceptable/attainable as far as mass culture is concerned so rarely mimics what is actually cool/desirable/acceptable/attainable. I've seen all of these nasty images before, and I won't pretend like I haven't been amused. I've let myself become brainwashed by the machine to believe that they're funny and cool and have an edgy purpose in the world. But there's something literally heartbreaking about looking at these photos once the whole truth has come out. It's degradation, pedophilia (many of the girls speaking out are underage), and full blown megalomania at work. And that's what it always has been, we just allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to what toxicity could possibly be at work for the sake of saving a pretty picture.
The fashion industry is in huge part to blame for valuing Richardson's star power and cash raking abilities over the integrity of it's young models. It's not that people didn't necessarily know that this was going on, it's that no one saw any reason to talk about it for fear of alienating one of the industry kingpins. The power he's managed to hold over girl after girl after girl, all the while capturing it on film for the world to see and misconstrue as "fashion"... should literally pain one to think about.
Jezebel is leading the crusade against Terry by providing a safe, anonymous place for subjects of harassment to speak out. As a female photographer, this is a very important issue to me and I hope that this isn't something that will be easily forgotten.