Terry Richardson is well known in the fashion world as the industry's most edgy photographer, with his campaigns depicting raunchy scenes, semi-nudity and full-frontal nudity in some cases. He has photographed a plethora of famous celebrities, typically also posing alongside them as they pretend to 'be him', wearing his large framed specs whilst throwing up his classic thumbs-up sign. His portfolio is deemed impressive, working with high-end, established designers and brands such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as high-street brands such as Diesel, Mango and American Apparel.
However, he has also been the subject of sexual abuse allegations and scandal. It has been reported that on some shoots (with aspiring models), he encourages the young models to take their clothes off and consequently joins in, taking his clothes off and asks the model to shoot him. This sounds ludicrous, however when you are surrounded by a photographer who is friendly and encouraging, it perhaps would prove difficult if put into that situation to say no, even if you feel uncomfortable with it. Many of these models are also still very young, and instead of looking out for their well-being, are afraid to say 'no' as their agency had booked them on the job. In any other job, this would be deemed unprofessional and highly inappropriate, but given that the modeling industry is an unregulated one, shoots like this are considered as 'art' rather than pornography. This is not to say that topless or nude shots always end in sexual exploitation, this is not the case at all. But regarding Richardson, with such an impressive list of designers and celebrities under his belt (at times, literally), saying 'no' to performing lewd acts could prove more difficult. What is even worse, is that Richardson has his assistants on the set witnessing all these sexual acts that these models are claiming, validating his actions. Richardson has been accused of sexual exploitation of many young models, but it wasn't until Danish model Rie Rasmussen spoke out against Richardson's behaviour on shoots. What is puzzling however, is that how is Richardson still booking jobs if he has all these allegations against him?
|Paris Hilton with Terry Richardson from October 15th|
And it's not only in the US that this is happening. Back in 2011, British fashion photographer Lee Cropper was jailed for 33 months for sexually assaulting models in his studio in North London. Cropper also held impressive experience during his career, shooting for Vogue and Grazia as well as celebrities such as Sadie Frost and Billie Piper. Again, the young aspiring models were pressured into stripping off and performing sexual acts as instructed by Cropper, making it hard to say 'no' to him as he implied by participating in these acts would result in more work for the models.
Both of these men clearly abuse their power as photographers. Working behind a lens adds a sense of voyeurism, despite it being consented by the person in front of it. As film theory would address it, the camera acts as the male. The female is something to be looked at due to her sexual attractiveness, and this looking by the male termed "the male gaze" results in the looking to be pleasurable. Thus by stripping the girls of their clothes, this is reinforced and allows for the idea of the 'peeping Tom'. They are watching the model's every move, and should be dictating the poses and faces for what would suit the campaign, and not their personal kicks. Photographers must be friendly and encouraging; an instructor to the model to achieve the perfect frame. In the case of Richardson, he acted as if stripping was the norm, allowing the girl to question herself as to why she was having doubts when everything seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary for Richardson and his assistants. But with this instruction, comes a window of opportunity to manipulate and to take advantage. Girls, especially those who are young in the modelling industry, are usually so desperate to make it big that if a famous photographer asked them to strip down, they probably would. The appeal of being booked for more jobs if they obey their instruction outweighs their niggling doubts, which results in so many young girls being sexually exploited. The bottom line is that this is degrading for the model in question, who may then experience depression, anger, or mental health issues as a consequence of the sexual harrassment.
Model scams and sexual exploitation needs to be stopped. Fake agencies requesting topless, semi-nude or nude photos are not checking for scarring or any other reason they give, but more so for their own personal benefit. Jay Mitchell's revealing book Shattered Dreams Broken Promises gives advice on how you can keep yourself protected from sleazy scammers, how to avoid sexual harassment, and how to pursue a career in the modeling industry in a safe way. It also exposes the secrets fake agencies use to get your money through portfolios, expensive photos and make-over shoots. His other book The Great Modelling Robbery also unveils how a fake agency works, and how they attempt to establish themselves as a 'recognised' agency; elements that you could recognise if you get approached by an agency. Sexual exploitation is a serious matter, and we need to protect girls from men like Terry Richardson and Lee Cropper. Cropper was sent to prison, but Richardson is still one of the biggest photographers in the United States. We need to raise awareness about this issue, we want to stop girls being financially and sexually exploited. The scammers aren't too impressed that we're generating awareness about this, so much so that we have been threatened with death threats as you can see here. We can't let these people keep operating their businesses. Buy these essential books now and make a stand against scammers!