By Diane Small
As an ex-model, I can tell you, the profession is far from glamorous. You get asked to do all kinds of nasty stuff, from wearing summer clothes outdoors in freezing cold temperatures for hours on end without a coat or a hot drink to climbing on slippery rocks near the ocean, whilst wearing 6″ heels. Stylists, designers, hair and makeup people sometimes treat you more like a fibreglass mannequin than a human being, pulling your hair, swiping makeup on and off your skin and pinning clothes to your most intimate parts without a second thought.
You are also naked a lot, whether it’s between outfits backstage at a fashion show, changing clothes on a shoot, or for the shot itself. It’s not normally a big deal–everyone is so focused on their part of the shoot or show that you could literally be a clothes hanger for all they care.
Unless you’re shooting with Terry Richardson, apparently.
Richardson’s Exploitation Exposed
Richardson is one of the most well known photographers in the fashion world. He’s shot for dozens of major publications and brands, from Valentino to Vanity Fair. He’s photographed the most famous people in the world, including Madonna, Kate Moss, Beyonce and even the President of the USA, Barak Obama.
All of this success has come to Richardson despite the fact that numerous young women have consistently and publicly accused him of sexually assaulting them, and even photographing himself doing it.
Richardson clearly knows what he’s doing. He makes models show ID proving their age before he shoots, them, and has a female assistant on hand to give a sense of security and encourage the young models to continue posing whilst Richardson performs sexual acts on himself and the models.
Sex, Confusion and Photographs
It’s easy for young models to be confused and scared in such an environment: if they stop posing, will their agency be furious? Will they be dropped from the books? Is this normal? All the while, Richardson apparently speaks in a goofy, ‘upbeat, effete voice’ and the assistant shouts enthusiastically from the sidelines, taking her own shots of the process, making the whole situation even more confounding. Read one model’s account of what he did to her here. The website Jezebel provides several testimonials from models and assistant photographers describing how Richardson carried out myriad textbook sexual assaults in front of dozens of people, who all let happen without a single protest, and other reputable news sources like the NY Observer and The Gloss have also all exposed Richardson’s perversions on set.
Richardson’s style often blurs the lines between pornography and fashion, which is clearly shown in the Taschen book series (yes, there is a whole series of them!), ‘Terryworld”. This is bad enough, but after dozens of models have spoken out against his treatment of them, it makes me wonder whether Richardson has assaulted the celebrities he’s shot, too. Certainly, he’s hypersexualised them, as these shots of Miley Cyrus and the stars of Gossip Girl in Rolling Stone attest to (source: www.ixdaily.com).
Thankfully, some celebrities like Lena Dunham and well known models like Coco Rocha have begun publicly regretting working with Richardson, but the mainstream press and the fashion industry continue to hire him. His photos of Lady Gaga just appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and GQ hired him to shoot Lebron James, for example. But by employing him, these major brands are tacitly condoning Richardson’s awful treatment of women and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps by agreeing to showcase his work.
Eluxe prides itself on showcasing ethical brands that ensure high standards of employee care and safety–why the treatment of models be any different from that of, say, garment workers? Terry Richardson may be ‘just one’ photographer, but by allowing an industry leader to get away with sexual assault, the message that is being sent is that this is ok for all photographers to do, and models should expect it. This is wrong.
There is now a Change.org petition by the Representation Project to encourage companies to pledge to stop working with Terry Richardson. We believe models have the right to feel as safe in their workplace as any other worker. If Richardson worked in any other industry, he’d have been jailed long ago.
If you agree that the likes of Richardson are a hazard in the fashion industry, then please sign the petition and tweet #NotBuyingIt at irresponsible brands that use his work until they get the message.
YSL, Harper’s Bazaar, Valentino and Aldo are just a few brands Terry Richardson has worked with. Why not send them a #NotBuyingIt tweet with a link to this article?
Images of Richardson: Wikicommons