If you are familiar with the fashion world, then you have more than likely seen the photography of Terry Richardson. Richardson has photographed countless celebrities including Chloe Sevigny, James Franco, Gwen Stefani, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and even President Barack Obama. He’s worked for publications like Vogue, GQ, and Rolling Stone and brands including Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford. He even directed Miley Cyrus’s now infamous “Wrecking Ball” music video. His style of photography is simple and recognizable with high commercial success, but there is a reason these big name brands should stop fueling his fame.
Starting in 2010, several models have come forward saying that Terry Richardson sexually assaulted them during a photo-shoot. The models who participate in these shoots are often “unknowns,” and are therefore less familiar with the work and more willing to do whatever they can to make a name for themselves. The acts themselves are vile and demeaning, and just when you think you’ve heard them all, another model speaks out about an uncomfortable experience she’s had with Richardson. The allegations include everything from Richardson asking a model to be nude and simulate oral sex on a man present at the shoot to Richardson asking models to perform sexual acts on himself.
Liskula Cohen (pictured above) stated that in twenty-four years of modeling, the only time she walked out on a shoot was with Terry Richardson.
“He made me feel as if I was a prostitute…I want other girls who read this to know that if you do something like this, you will survive, but it will haunt you. I have scoured the internet for these images and thankfully they are nowhere to be found. But it haunts me in my own mind…That shoot was nearly twelve years ago and it still outrages me…I am a forty-one year old mother and this is how my work experience with Terry has left me.”
Terry’s work has often sexualized women, even when working with celebrities. Take his 2010 GQ photoshoot of Glee stars Cory Montieth, Dianna Agron, and Lea Michele. Montieth is photographed completely clothed and playing drums while Agron and Michele are shown in skimpy outfits and provocative poses. Similarly, GQ used Richardson for a 2012 spread of Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston where Rudd is seen wearing a suit, while Aniston poses in a bra and mini skirt. This is a pattern in Richardson’s photography: men are fashionably clothed while women are scantily clad. In the same way Montieth was photographed with a drum set, his photos of men often include sets or props that play off of what that particular celebrity is known for. In a 2011 issue of GQ, Derek Jeter is pictured standing with a baseball bat, and in a 2010 issue, Jeff Bridges is photographed in a sweater reminiscent of his iconic role in The Big Lebowski.
Recently, Terry Richardson spoke out regarding these claims for the first time, calling the whole thing an “emotionally charged witch hunt.” He explains that sexual imagery has for a long time been a part of his work, and he has chosen to only work with consenting adults, all of whom signed release forms. The latter here is particularly interesting considering model Sarah Hilker described the girls at one of his shoots as being “so drunk they could barely stand, never mind be of sound mind to sign a model release form.” It is also important to make the point that, though he takes a stance against these allegations, he never denies anything.
People have already started to stand up against Terry Richardson. H&M, who in the past have used him to shoot advertisements, say they have no plans to use him in the future. In hopes to shame big companies, Jezebel has published a list of all of the magazines who have chosen to use him since the first claims in 2010. Lena Dunham, who in the past has been socially linked to Richardson, recently said in an interview “I’m not big on regrets, but I regret posing for Terry Richardson. As for being friends with him, he’s not and never was my friend… I’m also not in the business of being BFFs with alleged sexual predators.” There is currently an online petition reaching out to these big name brands and asking that they choose not to use Richardson’s photography in the future. It is important that in a world that can look past claims and assaults when they pertain to so-called artists, we have the strength to stand up for what is right.