by Alice Hindanov
Please be aware that there are images in this article that are NSFW!
Fashion can be an empowering and friendly industry for women, despite what movies like The Devil Wears Prada would have you believe. Female designers, models and editors have long been at the helm of fashion with many stunning successes to their name. Unfortunately, the fashion industry also depends heavily on women believing that they’re always just a few products, wardrobe adjustments or beauty trends away from being good enough. It’s well-known for promoting bizarre body trends like the recent obsession with thigh gaps, using women as props to sell products and condoning perverted behavior, especially by men.
The worst of these men might be Terry Richardson, arguably the most powerful photographer of the moment and the man behind Miley Cyrus’s journey from a Disney star to the woman in the Wrecking Ball music video, which he directed. Allegations of Richardson’s sexual misconduct surfaced in 2009, when model Jamie Peck posted this disturbing account of her two shoots with Richardson, during which, she writes, “I told him I had my period so I wanted to keep my underwear on, and he asked me to take my tampon out for him to play with.” Soon thereafter, Jezebel contributor and former model, Jenna Sauer called out for stories from models that had worked with Richardson, and tales of the photographer’s misconduct poured in. From asking models to call him “Uncle Terry” to manipulating them into sex acts cheered on by his assistants, these mostly anonymous stories painted a picture of a disgusting man with a huge ego and complete lack of respect for others.
Richardson’s lascivious, shocking work does nothing to defend his personality. His style reflects the non-aesthetic of the grunge 1990s, when Richardson began work as a photographer, and his punk youth as a heroin addict. Subjects ranging from Beyonce to President Obama stand in front of a white backdrop, captured in candid and unexpected, yet still flattering moments strongly reminiscent of a rawer, sexualized Jeurgen Teller. Images posted to Richardson’s Twitter showcase mundane, unsurprising locations. The photographer appears in front of the camera as often as he is behind it, and his face speaks for his work: everything from his ubiquitous red flannel and handlebar mustache to the signature Richardson thumbs-up says that he’s not highlighting or romanticizing the subject. He’s laughing at it. “Look at how normal this is, how cute it thinks it is and how easily it bends to my will,” he seems to say. Richardson even manages to make himself look like the alpha male when taking Instagram selfies with Norman Reedus, fan-favorite actor behind The Walking Dead’s definition-of-badass Daryl Dixon. More disturbingly, he posted a video to his Twitter of himself kissing Chloe Sevigny … dressed as Terry Richardson.
Despite his sickening character and unoriginal aesthetic, Richardson remains Hollywood’s hottest photographer. Scandal sells, and Terry Richardson specializes in the level of scandal reached only by Miley Cyrus and an over-exposed snapshot of his own assistant Alex (rumored to be from NYU) hunched under a desk performing fellatio on the photographer. His work has appeared in Bazaar, Vogue, GQ, advertisements for H&M and Tom Ford, and he has shot everybody of importance. Lady Gaga recently announced that Richardson will direct her documentary biopic in 2014, proving that his influence continues to grow no matter how many names are added to this Change.org petition for big brands to boycott his work. As well-connected as he is, we can only hope that one day, Richardson’ scandalous behavior will reach a level that can’t be tolerated, even in the fashion industry. Until then, why don’t you go sign the petition – it never hurts.