The controversial 44-year-old American fashion photographer Terry Richardson has met a lot of critique the past year. The daily press reacted promptly when the Danish model/artist Rie Rasmussen yelled at him at a bar in Paris in the spring.
About Richardson, Rie Rasmussen says: “He takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves… His ‘look’ is girls who appear underage, abused, look like heroin addicts… I don’t understand how anyone works with him… I told him, “What you do is completely degrading to women. I hope you know you only fuck girls because you have a camera, lots of fashion contacts and get your pictures in Vogue.”
Richardson has crossed a thousand unwritten lines, with his pornographic, eye catching take on fashion and the list of high profile magazines and brands Richardson has worked for is long: Vogue, Vice, Harper’s Bazaar, Penthouse, The Face, GQ Sports Illustrated, Gucci, Levi’s, Miu Miu, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Anna Molinari, Pirelli and Sisley, just to mention a few.
Some models describes working with Richardson as fun and dynamic and the model Abby Kershaw remarked to the Guardian UK: “Terry doesn’t force girls to do anything they don’t want to. He puts you in a G-string in a pile of mud because you want to do it. You touch yourself because you want to. For me, that shoot was the truth about how things were between us both, and I felt good doing it. I’m not ashamed of it — why should I be?”
Richardson himself says, “It’s about creating a vibe, getting people relaxed and excited. When that happens you can do anything.” And he continues: “I don’t think I’m a sex addict, but I do have issues… maybe it’s the psychological thing that I was a shy kid, and now I’m this powerful guy with his boner, dominating all these girls”.
I find myself wondering about the fact that what he does, performance artists and actors has been doing for years calling it art. Why is this different? Because it IS different! I think the biggest issues to be adressed in this matter is the age of the models and the unwritten rules in fashion that has the ability of making anything cool and a must-do for models – Even taking off your clothes and acting like a pornstar. Hey, who would say no to Terry Richardson? Therefore it is crucial that every model are able to reflect upon their actions knowing that what they do now can have serious consequenses later. If the models are able (and old enough) to do so, I don’t see any issues in Terrys work.
The problem is I really don’t think that is always the case.