Terry Richardson pussy-foots around sexual assault accusations

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Joann Row, Opinions Editor
March 19, 2014
Filed under Columns, Opinions

Controversial photographer Terry Richardson directed Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” music video, Lady Gaga’s documentary and stirred his tea with a model’s used tampon.

Richardson has come forward to address alleged rumors in an open letter to Huffington Post Friday, March 14.

A few weeks ago, an anonymous Reddit user, recently revealed as model Charlotte Waters, accused celebrity photographer Richardson for sexually abusing her on set five years ago.

Waters’s original Reddit post has been removed but the thread of responses can still be found on Oyster Mag. Despite its removal, Reddit users ignited a flurry of media speculation.

Richardson has made a name for himself as a high profile, fashion photographer for designers like Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent campaigns. During the span of his career, Richardson has been no stranger to sexual exploitation accusations.

Four years ago, Richardson was publically struck when a model came forward about a sketchy photo shoot.

“I modeled for Terry Richardson when I was 19. And guess what? I felt bad about it,” model Jaime Peck wrote in an article for The Gloss four years ago.

“He’s the only one who’s left me feeling like I needed to take two showers,” Peck wrote. “This man has built his business, pleasure empire on breaking the cardinal rule of asking a young girl you don’t know to come over to your house and hang out naked: don’t be a f**king creep.”

Richardson let this model’s accusation fall on deaf ears, but now a slew of pretty 19 year olds are stepping forward and recounting their tales.

Last year, model Coco Rocha warned models with, “I don’t work with Terry Richardson, I out things like this,” in a Daily Mail article.

“Tell your friends and agency when you work with a creepy photographer, or else he’ll do the same to another girl,” Rocha said.

With all this tension, one would think Richardson would have at least made a peep to let public know: Hey! I’m not a 48-year-old creep who wants to molest you in front of a camera.

If young, impressionable models are given the opportunity to work with star-maker Richardson, it’s a hard offer to turn down, and it seems he is fully aware of that.

He can argue that these models are peddling gossip for their fifteen seconds of fame but isn’t that the same noteriety Richardson is thirsty for?

Thanks to the power of redditors, Richardson is finally confronting the slate of rumors in his open letter … to a certain extent.

“The images depicted sexual situations and explored the beauty, rawness, and humor that sexuality entails,” Richardson’s letter states.

“I collaborated with consenting adult women who were fully aware of the nature of the work, and as is typical with any project, everyone signed releases,” Richardson said.

Richardson has yet to deny any of the sexual accusations.

So, judging from Richardson’s letter, his artistic theatrics are what made models uncomfortable.

Richardson can defend himself as an “artist” for his vulgar snaps and methods all he wants, but isn’t he just rehashing the same images the porn industry had mastered well before he was born?

Richardson prides himself as a statement-making photographer but his open letter fails to leave any sort of impression.

He’s simply pussy-footing around the accusations, not confronting the issues at hand or denying any of the speculations.

After being revealed as the anonymous Reddit user, Waters’ interviewed with the social media news aggregate, Vocative, on March 11. Waters said that Richardson had her undress, hold his penis, licked her buttocks and then, the Pièce de résistance, ejaculating into her open eye.

“Over the course of my career, I have come to accept that some of my more provocative work courts controversy, and as an artist, I value the discourse that arises from this,” Richardson’s open letter said.

I think Richardson’s artistic process for “beauty” and “rawness” needs to be re-examined.

His letter is quite sophisticated in contrast to what he said in The New York Post last year: “I was a shy kid,” he said, “and now I’m this powerful guy with a boner, dominating all these girls.”

Playing devil’s advocate, I can say models have the liberty to walk off of any set that they deem as uncomfortable. Saying no to someone as high-profile as Richardson, though, is probably easier said than done.

A photo might say a thousand words, but Richardson’s mug is summarized by a single statement, “it’s not who you know, it’s who you blow.”

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