Following in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal that has shaken the foundations of Hollywood, fashion photographer Terry Richardson is banned from Conde Nast Britain publications following allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against the famous photographer in 2010 by several models.
Attention to the fashion industry grew after US model Cameron Russell launched an Instagram campaign, #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, in which she and others recounted abuse during their modeling careers in much the similar vein as the #MeToo campaign.
She was seconded by model Christy Turlington Burns who said, “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated.”
Names were not included in the accounts posted by Instagram users, but many of the stories led to speculation that some of the incidents involved the NY-based photographer Terry Richardson.
Known for his sexually explicit aesthetic, or what some would call exploitative, Terry Richardson is no stranger to controversy nor are these allegations the first time the photographer was accused of sexual misconduct, allegations the photographer has repeatedly denied.
The email from Conde Nast Britain COO James Woolhouse, obtained by the Daily Mail, instructed staff at Conde Nast Britain publications to kill any upcoming or ongoing projects and replace any that are currently planned, “Any shoots that have been commission(ed) or any shoots that have been completed but not yet published, should be killed and substituted with other material.”
The cessation of work with Terry Richardson was potentially sparked by an article in a UK newspaper, The Sunday Times of London, that openly asked the fashion industry why it lauded and praised a figure like Terry Richardson, again, no stranger to such allegations of sexual assault, while Hollywood is trying to openly confront the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Article authors James Gillespie, Harriet Williamson and Mary O’Connor minced no words, writing “A renowned photographer who has been the subject of widespread allegations of sexually abusing models over many years is still lauded by many in the industry, despite gaining a reputation as the Harvey Weinstein of fashion.”
While Terry Richardson’s work contracts with Conde Nast Britain were reportedly in dispute prior to the email, the arrival of the Conde Nast missive only 24 hours after The Times' article condemning the fashion industry’s tolerance of Terry Richardson’s alleged behavior strikes many as less than coincidental.
Conde Nast did not comment on whether or not Terry Richardson’s status with their American publications such as Vogue has changed but did say that sexual harassment “of any kind is unacceptable and should not be tolerated” according to USA Today.
A person close to the situation says that Richardson still denies the allegations, telling USA Today: “Terry is disappointed to hear about this email especially because he has previously addressed these old stories. He is an artist who has been known for his sexually explicit work, so many of his professional interactions with subjects were sexual and explicit in nature but all of the subjects of his work participated consensually.”
Previous photos by Terry Richardson include “one Richardson image [in which] a young woman is pictured performing oral sex on him while locked in a suitcase. Another image has her doing the same from a rubbish bin and a further photograph has her repeating the act with the word ‘slut’ written on her forehead.” In addition, “Richardson, 52, frequently appeared in his own pictures, sometimes taken by assistants, while he had sex with the models. Many examples were posted online, although some pages have recently been taken down” according to The Times.
Terry Richardson has worked for magazines like GQ, Vogue and W in addition to well-known celebrity photography, featuring subjects like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Barack Obama. Most recently he directed American pop star Miley Cyrus’ music video for her track “Wrecking Ball,” a collaboration Cyrus says she now regrets.
Model Liskula Cohen’s account is particularly illuminating when she tells The Times, “My advice to any models who are thinking about working with him is bring a bodyguard, keep your clothes on, and if he exposes himself, call the police” after an incident in which “He made me feel as if I was a prostitute, a whore.” According to Cohen, it is the only photoshoot she has walked off of in her entire modeling career, being pushed to the edge by Richardson’s request that she simulate oral sex.
Richardson did not respond to The Times’ requests for a comment but has asserted in the past that all encounters were consensual, calling the allegations a “witch-hunt.”
Richardson did address these allegations previously in an open letter, “Correcting the Rumors,” to Huffington Post, writing in 2014: “I collaborated with consenting adult women who were fully aware of the nature of the work, and as is typical with any project, everyone signed releases . . . I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do. I give everyone that I work with enough respect to view them as having ownership of their free will and making their decisions accordingly.”