Models say Vogue photographer Terry Richardson sexually harrassed them

Photographer Terry Richardson is  a huge deal in the fashion world. He has power, influence, money and acclaim. His photographs have always been extremely sexual and there have always been rumours of inappropriate and exploitative behaviour on Terry Richardson shoot.

After all, this is the man who once said of breaking into modeling, “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow. I don’t have a hole in my jeans for nothing.”

Now models are starting to come out and say it’s more than inappropriate, it’s sexual harassment.

According to the NY Post:

A week after we reported that model Rie Rasmussen recently confronted fashion photographer Terry Richardson for allegedly exploiting young models, another of his subjects has accused him of being a camera-wielding predator. “Of all the fine folks I’ve frolicked au natural for, he’s the only one who’s left me feeling like I needed to take two showers,” writes Jamie Peck on women’s Web site The Gloss.

After meeting Richardson at a party a few years ago, Peck, then 19, stopped by his studio for a shoot, where he asked to be called “Uncle Terry” while shooting her nude. On her second visit, she claims, Richardson got completely naked himself, had his assistant take pictures of Peck taking pictures of him, and eventually requested a sex act, “all the while casually mentioning his upcoming Miu Miu shoot with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Billy Crudup . . . and suggesting I come upstate with him and his fab celebufriends.” Richardson could not be reached for comment.

Back then,  Frockwriter fashion writer Patty Huntington wrote for Fairfax newspapers at the time….

If you subscribe to the theory that sex sells in advertising, Terry Richardson is definitely your man. Best known for louche imagery that blurs the lines between photography and pornography, the 41-year-old American coaxes models into his studio to strike poses that no doubt shock their parents. It’s all in the name of art and commerce, with a long list of international fashion magazines and brands from Gucci to Levi’s keen to trade on his risque rep.

Australia’s Lee Jeans is the latest to join that list, investing what local sources estimate at $US150,000 ($200,000) to get Richardson to photograph its spring/summer advertising campaign in New York on Thursday. That’s roughly 10 times what an Australian photographer would earn for the same campaign.

The competition is incredibly stiff in denim at the moment – everyone who has the chance to make a pair of jeans is doing so, said Richard Bell, the marketing manager for Lee’s parent, Icon Clothing: “We feel like we have to constantly push it.”

The response to the shots was predictably divided. Fashion people though they were ‘genius’ and there was much gushing talk of ‘raising the bar’ (I’m assuming they were referring to ad campaigns and not erections but it’s hard to tell)and how Terry Richardson was ‘the master’ and ‘top of the game’.
What game is that exactly? The porn-pretending-to-be-fashion game? Wow, what an achievement.

Dr Joe Tucci , the CEO of Australian Childhood Foundation considers the images “a horrific portrayal of young people in sexually explicit poses that were very close to child pornography.” and he has reported the campaign to the Advertising Standards Bureau hoping they’ll bad the campaign.

The ads were shot by Terry Richardson and are set to run in youth magazines such as Oyster Rush and Yen as well as billboards across metropolitan areas.

The AFA (Australian Family Association) president Gabrielle Walsh says: “I’m horrified by these images. We are concerned about the public portrayal of young women in this manner.”

UPDATE: Terry Richardson has responded to these accusations via his blog:

I just want to take a moment to say I’m really hurt by the recent and false allegations of insensitivity and misconduct. I feel fortunate to work with so many extraordinary people each and every day.

I’ve always been considerate and respectful of the people I photograph and I view what I do as a real collaboration between myself and the people in front of the camera. To everyone who has embraced and supported me and my work, I am so grateful. Thank you, it means a lot.

Jezebel has a comprehensive story, “Meet Terry Richarson, The World’s Most F**ked Up Fashion Photographer” that details these new allegations of exploitation and it’s brilliant. In part, it says:

Frankly, “creep” seems inadequate to the task of describing Richardson’s behavior. While it’s important to note that Peck does not imply that she didn’t consent to what went on with Richardson, it is troubling that she describes “zooming out” during their encounter. The environment she writes about at the studio, where she is surrounded by Richardson and his assistants, all armed with cameras (and, apparently, towels), all cheering her along, and all acting like it’s the most natural thing in the world for a photographer to interrupt a shoot and demand a hand job from his model, is even more troubling. “Inappropriate” and “unprofessional” don’t even begin to cover it. Given the power differential that exists between Richardson, who is old, wealthy, regarded as an artist, and vastly influential, and most of his model subjects, can the consent of these women even be said to be freely given? Richardson is a guy who publishes books with Taschen, hangs out with celebrities, and photographs the President. Peck was a “nerdy as hell” college freshman when she met him. Most professional models are even younger.

To those who would argue that any nude shoot carries an implied risk of lewd behavior on the part of the photographer, or that models should be aware of Richardson’s oeuvre and avoid him if they don’t like working in a sexualized environment, I say: Bullshit. Nudity is common in fashion, and when the clothes come off, it doesn’t denote a holiday from the responsibilities of maintaining a safe working environment. When I modeled, I shot both topless and implied nude with a variety of photographers — in fact, my first editorial shoot, for Italian Glamour, was topless — and never was I sexually harassed on a set. Nor did I expect, or feel that I deserved, to be simply because of the kind of work I was there to do. Instead, I expected those around me to not violate my dignity at work. Peck agrees that Richardson’s behavior is exceptional, and crosses some clear lines. “Of all the fine folks I’ve frolicked au naturel for, he’s the only one who’s left me feeling like I needed to take two showers.”

It’s not terribly surprising that Peck, who describes herself as “not a model, just a vain girl with nice tits who likes to pose for the occasional cheesecake photo,” is more comfortable speaking out about her experiences with Richardson than many professional models. Rie Rasmussen is one notable, and courageous, exception, but the fact of Richardson’s immense power within the industry, his long-standing relationships with both influential magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue Paris, and commercial clients like Miu Miu, Gucci, and Sisley, makes it difficult for most working models to openly criticize him. Pointing out the wrongfulness of his behavior risks hurting you more than it will him. And so agencies continue sending their young charges to castings with him, in the hopes of him giving one a big break. And so magazine editors who would never for a moment consider leaving their teenage daughters alone with someone like Terry Richardson continue booking him for shoots with other people’s teenage daughters.

Bravo, my sentiments exactly.

Does his work push your buttons? Is this all a sick version of The Emperor’s New Clothes where because simply someone has a level of fame and acclaim, nobody is game enough to say “Um, HELLO? Yuck.”

Or is anything OK in the name of art and fashion?