Terry Richardson with Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief Carine Roitfeld - Photo: Terry's Diary
By now you've no doubt read about the allegations of sexual exploitation against photographer Terry Richardson. New Zealander Jenna Sauers has been leading the charge over at Jezebel, and doing a fine job of giving a voice to those who wouldn't normally have one. I like Terry Richardson's work. Am I surprised to hear these stories? No. Had I considered an exploitative aspect to his photographs previously? Surprisingly, no. I figured all his models were over 18 and they were choosing to do what they were choosing to do. Should I have thought more carefully about the situation before declaring my undying love for him? Absolutely. But do I think the bad press will negatively impact on his career as one of the world's top fashion photographers? Perhaps, but not as much as many would like.
The problem is, people like his work.
And this is an industry devoted to aesthetics. It's not an industry devoted to protecting innocents or safeguarding minors against perverts or drugs or eating disorders.
Terry Richardson isn't the only guy shooting nudie photos of girls in fashion, and I'm sure he's not the only photographer to shoot with more than his camera on set. But what the allegations against Terry Richardson have done is brought these issues to the forefront of the fashion world. Model age, weight and sexual safety are topical stories that are bandied around year after year. Every season there's a report written, every season there seems to be a commitment made by designers, photographers, stylists and magazines to change, and every season the same young, thin, vulnerable girls keep doing the same jobs with the same clients, cast by the same casting agents. Only one thing remains constant in fashion - when it comes to models, nothing ever seems to change.
Models need photographers like Terry Richardson more than he needs them. Imagine how weak a position that puts them in. If they're asked to undress, or pose in a way they don't want to, or worse still, perform sexual favours, saying no isn't as simple an option as you'd imagine. Their agents (or parents for that matter) often aren't there to help them make a sensible decision, it's a high stress, high pressure environment, and if they're the sole income earner sending money back to the family in a developing country, what other choice do they have?
But it's not just an international problem, it happens right here in little old New Zealand too. I've been told two separate stories by reliable sources about two under-18 year old girls who were given drugs on the sets of magazine editorials. In one case it was P, given to a 15 year old, the other, speed, given to a 16 year old. The models' bookers were called by concerned parties in both instances. No action was taken. Both agencies continue to send girls to shoot with the same photographers for the same magazines. Why? Presumably because they didn't want to spoil relationships with these fabulous people who help promote their girls and make them money. No worries about the nasty stuff, she'll be right.
None of this will change until somebody in a position of massive power stands up and says enough is enough. The world's looking at you, Ms Wintour. What are you going to do?
I LIKE YOU!