Someone really ought to to write a pamphlet for models who reach a certain editorial status in their careers. It should outline the following: “Hey, so congratulations on making modeling your main source of income. Now make way for the tons of lecherous industry figures who will proposition the shit out of you in the hopes that your ego greatly outsizes your brain.” Some of them will be a dude you met at a super clutch bar who hits on you by approaching all like, “So, what’s your agency?” And some of them might be a famous fashion photographer who’s shot Obama, along with all the other models and celebrities with enviable zip codes.
I’m betting no one is really surprised that yet another relatively unknown model comes out of the social net-woodwork to blast Terry Richardson once more for his deplorable ways. His blown-out photos, generally against a white wall and hastily composed, feature models sporting a Disney-wide grin while either wearing his throwback pedophile-chic glasses, giving a thumbs-up, both, and usually with Axe body spray proportions of sexual overtone. It’s all high-gloss, high flash, high times. And of course there’s the many celebrities littered in his Terryworld coffee table book, endorsing his legitimacy in the field of glamorized disposable camera photography.
Look, I’m not terribly familiar with the dude, despite living in the same city, because we don’t travel in the same crowds. I’ve heard the tampon-tea rumor, the stories of his reverse psychology methods (“Okay I’ll get nekkid and you be the photographer so we’re equals!”) to get apprehensive models to loosen up, asking his subjects to call him Uncle Terry, famous models lambasting his behavior (both Coco Rocha and Rie Rasmussen have publically called him out for his lechery), and of course his Marie Antoinette-esque quote of “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow. I don’t have a hole in my jeans for nothing.”
This dude’s creep resumé is on point. After reading the handful of personal accounts from young models who’ve experienced his penis in Real-D, I am assuming that stunned by a combination of “he’s a famous photographer with lots of connections to advance my modeling career” and probably “Wait… what is happening here?” makes for a stew of disassociation that nobody seems to realize is what happens when you find yourself in a potentially psychologically-damaging situation that you don’t know how you got yourself into (nor did you plan for) and you don’t know how to get out of. It certainly doesn’t help that Richardson has a female assistant on hand, who intentionally or not, serves as a “professional” buffer against any real harm or actual rape-y advances. Like, if his assistant is totally okay shooting him jacking off into a model’s open eye, and the model seems to not be making a fuss about it, she must be cool with it even though it feels really fucking weird and wrong (Charlotte Waters recently shared that story on Vocativ).
Moreover, I’m perplexed at all the people who attack girls for coming out against Terry Richardson (or any dude’s who’s been a grade-A creep to them, regardless of celebrity). I’m enraged by the spades of people (including other models, like Charlotte Free) whose reaction is “Well, what did you expect?” And I’m dumbfounded by anyone who would further harass a person openly coming forward about his or her own experience with sexual harassment, or being affected by professional inappropriateness. How did this become successful as a means of self-promotion for slime balls like Terry Richardson? I’d like to think it isn’t.
As a freelance fit model (not the kind that gets photographed, but the kind that makes money off my body regardless), I am inherently aware that there are no union regulations or clauses protecting me (or even minors in the industry) against the kinds of mistreatment or harassment that performers like actors or singers or even any other working stiff in a 9-5 cubicle has. Perhaps a small step in the right direction, former model Sara Ziff has founded Model Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to stopping and exposing the exploitation of models, and giving them a voice in the fashion industry. So, what counts as mistreatment? Well, would a higher-up corporate bro get skewered for offering a colleague a promotion/job in exchange for sex? Totally. Would a fashion photographer? Not so much. When considering one’s own modeling career, there are social and economic choices to be made in terms of setting yourself above your competition, making the right connections, and making money. And it isn’t like this is a secret– it’s the culture. There are way more tall thin pretty girls out there than there are pages in an editorial spread, that’s for damn sure.
It is totally easy to proclaim the virtues of individual freedom—that nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do because it’s America the beautiful and respect and women’s lib and all that. But that’s a really naïve perspective, considering not everyone necessarily knows when they are being mistreated with a capital MIS, and if they do, they may not feel that they are in the position to combat it. That shit can be fucking tricky.
It’s also easy to think that because a fashion model is selling her image, that she is selling her body, or that that’s “on the table.” It’s easy to assume that if a model poses nude for fashion shoots all the time that she’ll do it for anyone or anything. Telling a young girl that there are tons of girls lined up to take her place if she chooses not to engage in something she’s uncomfortable with is, to me, basically telling her that whatever the thing is that she is uncomfortable with IS an acceptable staple of the industry she’s a part of (or at least trying to be). It implies that being DTF is a job skill. Never mind that there are tons of ways to do nude or sexy photo shoots without anyone feeling like they need to bathe in straight up lye afterwards.
In all fairness, nobody’s ever successfully sued or convicted Terry Richardson of any of these lascivious accusations. He continues to be gainfully employed and apparently is now sexting his connections for a lay, according to a tweet from model, Emma Appleton. She’s since taken down the tweet showing a screenshot of a text from him saying: “if i can fuck you i will book you in ny for a.shoot for Vogue”
Aside from the fact that it appears he can’t capitalize his “I”s but will pay grammatical respect to Vogue, the backlash Appleton received—that she’s faking it, that “Terry’s just doing Terry”—is more infuriating evidence that those in power are rarely held accountable for their behavior, which, while still in the realm of legality, are so far in the land of inappropriate that HOW are publications still letting him use their name to coerce young girls? It’s just not a good look. And considering you’re in the business of looks, MAGAZINES, don’t you know that there are TONS of photographers lined up to shoot for you if Terry Richardson isn’t down with professional behavior?