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Insights & Thoughts

Terry Richardson Spawns Internet Hate with #Nomoreterry – Is It Deserved?

By Kishore Sawh on March 17th 2014

The controversy that resonates around the name Terry Richardson has been around for over a decade, but has taken a more insidious turn of late. The discourse has gone from a whisper to a full blown megaphone. The crowning point, arguably, the boycotting movement with its own hashtag, #nomoreterry. It seems just as the ink dries and the bloggers tire, there is another outspoken recount of an experience with Richardson, graphic enough to grab column inches worldwide like the fame thirsty subjects that often knock on famous photographers’ doors.

Interestingly, there’s always a comment about how basic his photography is, and we all know photographers love to look at work and say, “I could do that.” For argument’s sake, we’ll say the imagery is technically mediocre, but some of the agitation is over the juxtaposition of the half-to-full-naked women he shoots and his strange presence, which have subsequently become as congenital to the experience of his work, as the photos themselves. However, clearly, raw looking footage of sexually charged scenes sell, and Terry is famous and selling.

How famous is he? The plaid shirt, oversized glasses, and ever-present “thumbs up” wearing photographer is speculated to have made $58 million between 2012-2013. That makes Richardson not just one of, if not the highest paid photographer, but an actual financial force. His client caché also reads like the guest list at the Oscars, shooting everyone from Beyoncé, Kate Moss, Miley Cyrus, Emily Ratajkowski, and President Obama, Vogue, and GQ. Names like that don’t seem deterred by his antics or accusations against him.

terry-richardson-#nomoreterry-charlotte-waters-OMG-Oprah-Obama-Glee-GQ-2

The most recent accusation against the openly hypersexual Richardson was by 24 year old past-model Charlotte Waters, who, in detail so explicit it’ll make Christian Grey blush, described her own Terry Richardson experience. That descriptiveness has caught more media and individual attention than some of the other allegations directed at Richardson.

The distillation of her experience was essentially submitting a request to be photographed, being selected, going into his studio, disrobing as photos were being taken, and gradually succumbing to the sexually natured, and sexual desires of Richardson, all while in the company of male and female assistants, culminating in his culmination, and her self loathing.

You can read her recount of events here, and a timeline of #uncleterry ’s other sexually incendiary actions here. Anyone with a moral compass pointing remotely north is going to find Richardson vulgar, unapologetic, and a fiend, and fashion blog OMG That Dress decided to initiate a movement against him. The call is for brands and celebrities to no longer hire Richardson, and for the public to stop supporting them if they continue. #nomoreterry.

Lea Michele

#UncleTerry Finally Speaks Up

We’ve seen this all before and other efforts to smear Richardson and kill his business have never really gained traction, and Richardson’s celebrity seems to continue to grow. He has been decisively quiet even after accusations mounted. Finally though, “Uncle Terry” as he sometimes likes to be called, has responded. He notes that he made a deliberate decision to ignore the internet gossip until it became what he called, “vicious and distorted,” and, “…an emotionally-charged witch hunt.” He further goes on to say,

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. I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do.

People will always have strong opinions about challenging images, and the dichotomy of sex is that it is both the most natural and universal of human behaviors and also one of the most sensitive and divisive. 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. I can only hope for this discourse to be informed by fact, so that whether you love my work or hate it, you give it, and me, the benefit of the truth.

Read the full open letter here.



Thoughts

“Terryworld,” his book, and much of Terry’s work, is direct, dirty, blatantly unapologetic, and absurd to the point where the dichotomy of this unattractive photographer sexually engaged with beautiful women, hits in a way so instantaneous and farcical, that it is clearly intentional. It excites.

It’s important to realize at this point, a major issue that’s a real undercurrent is gender prejudice and bias, and how subtext of sexual coercion is an irritant for a broad feminist mentality. What’s interesting to consider here is that however sexist, misogynistic, coercion filled or not Richardson’s work is, he has not been the one to set the precedent on which the argument stems from – that’s as old as time. In fact, the precedent like that set by models like Waters, using sex, objectification and/or association with fame to gain recognition is also nothing new.

terry-richardson-#nomoreterry-charlotte-waters-OMG-Oprah-Obama-Glee-GQ-8

Essentially the scene of a man objectifying the image of a woman has been around since the dawn of time, and that gender prejudice trope is unlikely to go away, though this is arguably partially what OMG That Dress is trying to incite with #nomoreterry. It should be understood that the very intention of some photos, as it was with paintings, is to excite, to be explicit, and to idealize the perverse side that’s so intrinsic to the human condition. It’s all evocative. Sadly, it has always been, and Terry perpetuates this, that it’s women who tend to be the objects in current and historical art. Whether it’s social conditioning or not, there are grounds to say women have become self-identifying with being an object, and men continue to encourage it, which perhaps, they shouldn’t.

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This brings into question the mentality of the women who knock on Terry’s door. Not to question their merit or integrity, but simply to understand that these are women who identify to some degree with being an object for art. Some are so powerful that even when stripped bare, they use their nakedness to empower themselves . Even Waters admits she was cash poor and began nude modeling for money, and then began to enjoy it, and felt empowered. Richardson was simply a vehicle she sought out with which to do it. The real question is how does he go about it?

His reputation precedes him, even 5 years ago, and however horrid he may appear or be, he can’t be claimed as anything but open about his ways. A book such as “Terryworld” can’t be published without being open. The book is essentially a visual chronology of this nerdy guy’s sexual liberation. There is certainly room for argument that the models who come through his door know his work, and to some degree, his practices. If they don’t, some would, and have argued it is their job to know.

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Now, of course, I’m not suggesting they should know he has, if in fact he does have, a penchant for rape and humiliation. It is fair though, is it not, to suggest that to familiarize one’s self with Terry’s work before offering to be his subject seems a basic to-do, as it’s immediately obvious he is often sexually engrossed with his subjects. This leads anyone to wonder how that comes about, and if it’s a theme, why work in that environment if it’s something you’re uncomfortable with? At this point, it only figures to mention that Waters, along with others who have come forth have all admitted they at no point asked to stop or said no to Richardson’s advances. The biggest question of all is, should that really matter?

The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Sexual misconduct should never be tolerated, and we all can agree that not saying ‘no’ isn’t consent. There just seems to be some room to question the integrity of all the accusations. Richardson’s style has been imitated endlessly and is so engrained in modern visual work, it’s hard to argue he isn’t a game changer, and game changers often are easy targets.

In Closing

My personal opinion of the man is that as a creative, he seems to have a way of bringing out some incredible moments with his subjects. They trust him as a photographer and craftsman. I remember as a teen learning he would shoot for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue with only a Yashica T4, and it made me reframe how I viewed ‘good’ photos. It helped a young guy understand that a good photo isn’t necessarily about expressing extensive technical knowledge, but capturing a feeling and building it into something. I find him to be blatant and I like that. He is what he is with no holds barred. I won’t be participating in #nomoreterry, and I respect his abilities and vision. That being said I find his methods somewhat predatory, and disrespectful, and I don’t think what he does is necessary for his, or anyone’s success.

Image Sources:
Vogue Japan
GQ
Mojackson.com
Harpers Bazaar

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. mick

    The dude is a creep who probably deserves a good beating like all pimps do, – and the women involved with him are prostitutes, or they wouldn’t surrender sexually without a peep.
    this is like when a woman lets a man kill her child, and then says she could not resist him. Man up or shut up bitch.

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  2. simarva

    This article misses the point entirely. The campaign against Terry isn’t about the validity or content of his photographs, or even all the history behind women being objectified. Nice try to mask the real issue at hand. The #nomoreterry campaign is about his behavior on some of his photo shoots, which is, frankly, criminal. Even if releases are signed and all parties are aware of the “nude” nature of the shoot – no person should ever be coerced into doing something sexual that was not explicitly stated beforehand. Of course he’s not going around and acting this way with Gaga or Miley Cyrus or the huge brands he is hired by – these people would never tolerate that – he’s doing it with models who are not big enough to have a voice and who don’t want to jeopardize their careers by refusing to say no to his completely unacceptable and disgusting requests, all made to seem “fun” by “Uncle Terry”. What a whacked out man. I for one will be supporting this boycott.

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  3. James

    Frankly, I’m amazed the guy hasn’t been jailed yet. If ever there was a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes, this is it. The man is clearly very clever at normalising his predatory behaviour. I find him very, very creepy.

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  4. juano

    yo what’s with all these people acting like the boycott or the hate is because “he takes sexist pictures”. it’s not. it’s because the guy is a gross sexual predator. “abloo bloo it’s true that his work is controversial but” i don’t see what’s so controversial about sexual abuse it’s pretty bad period

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  5. DSaya

    I’m pretty baffled by this article. His ability to take a decent shot is neither here or there. His ability to behave in a professional manner with ALL CLIENTS, not just his high profile ones that likely have personal guards or bodyguards available.

    This stinks strongly of ‘she took her clothes off, so it’s her fault’. And that’s wrong. She agreed to a photoshoot. Nude or not, a photoshoot is a job, the same way that posing as a nude model at a college art class is a job. You’re not there doing these things to give the photographer a boner, and let me tell you, if someone licked the ass of an art model, they’d be escorted out of the class, and likely written up. Being naked isn’t consent to being fondled, or being ordered by a person in a power position to fondle them. Because YES, Terry Richardson was in a power position. The photographer is the one with the power in this situation. The model could have left, yes. And not gotten the photoshoot. So this was coercion in a professional setting, and in most fields, is ground for immediate firing.

    He-said/she-said or not, blaming the woman who was assaulted is what the author here did. The implication that she somehow agreed to this, when everything she has written about it has screamed that she was in a setting where she was coerced, where she was passive, because when you’re 19 and never taught to have a voice, you don’t KNOW that you can say no. Not saying no wasn’t consent. Doing something because you think your job is on the line and coming away from that feeling dirty, like it was your fault, is something that happens when someone did something YOU DID NOT WANT. Like jerking off into your eye and telling you that you should keep them open.

    Also, Scout fucking Willis (Bruce Willis’ daughter) said this guy tried to finger her at a shoot. And you’re standing up and defending him? When multiple women come forward and say this guy is a menace and people stand aside and say ‘no, no, you’re wrong and here’s why’, then they aren’t wrong. They might even be right. But I’m willing to bet that you are. 2% of rape accusations are false. 2%. That means, if fifty women came forward, one of them -might- be lying about it.

    I say this as a woman who was sexually assaulted by a male co-worker (I went on a date with him, and apparently that meant he could shove his hand down my pants and try to rape me, at least by the author’s definition), and sexually harassed by another male co-worker (“every time you open your mouth, I want to jizz in it, so shut it”), but hey, I was in a male-dominated field, I have to ‘expect’ shit like that.

    People like Lady Gaga and Beyonce don’t go to photoshoots alone, like this woman did. They go with an ARMY of their own stylists, make-up artists, assistants, managers, etc. The two are in NO WAY equivalent.

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  6. Mav

    It seems to me that his ability as a photographer is irrelevant – it’s his conduct with models that is at issue. This article could be interpreted as saying, if he was not such a great photographer, his conduct wouldn’t be acceptable, but because he is, let’s give him a pass.

    Assuming we’re taking Charlotte Waters account at face value, is this article really suggesting that is okay? And that perhaps the model should have known what she was letting herself in for?

    It’s interesting that Richardson response doesn’t seem to address his behaviour, just his view of art… which again, I don’t think is what is at issue here…

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  7. miam0

    Perverse fashion designer Marc Jacobs supports Terry. He got him many well-paying contracts, they are longtime pals. Jacobs wants to control the entire fashion world. He has great influence on Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and more. he is responsible for Miley’s shocking new image. Jacobs cruelly tortures a Hungarian girl. He’s been stalking her since she was 16. Read the truth and spread the word, check: STYLEANGELIQUE BLOGSPOT CA

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  8. Matthew Saville

    So, he didn’t invent “sexual coercion”. He still represents everything that is wrong with society today. Just my two cents.

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  9. Meredith

    Wow. This article surprised me in a good way.

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  10. CK

    At the end of the day, and until witnesses corroborate the accusations or other proof surfaces. it is really he said/she said. This entire campaign isn’t about Terry’s work but about his conduct. Clearly, if he abuses his position as claimed, he wouldn’t do it with A-List clients and celebrities so they’re experience would, no doubt, be exceptional. He is a talented and unique photographer whose work speaks for itself. That having been said, with great power comes great responsibility and if he is indeed abusing the power he has to abuse young women who are not A-Listers and can easily be coerced/abused as they are trying to get into the industry, then this becomes the issue. If he is indeed doing this then he needs to be stopped/punished. It isn’t acceptable no matter how good the work is, the end does not justify the means. This kind of conduct is bad for anyone who practices photography as using this kind of slimy method tarnishes everyone who loves to create with a camera. If he’s not guilty of this then the accusers need to be called out and made accountable for trying to ruin an artist to further their own careers. Both this article and Terry’s rebuttal seem to focus on his work being risque and seem to downplay the alleged conduct. They are not one and the same. Terry Richardson great photographer? Yes, absolutely! Terry Richardson predator? Proof to come, one way or the other. Not enough information to take sides fairly, but I found the direction Terry chose to defend himself to pose more questions than answers.

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  11. Joven

    The article felt a little clumsy. It seemed to want to straddle the lines between the quality of his work, the content of his work, and the professionalism of his process, but struggle to neatly tie it all together.

    Terry’s current issues aren’t tied to the quality of his work, but the quality of his conduct. It’s dangerous for you to say,

    “This brings into question the mentality of the women who knock on Terry’s door. Not to question their merit or integrity, but simply to understand that these are women who identify to some degree with being an object for art.”

    It treads dangerously close to blaming and assaulting the victim, which is why so many of these types of incidents go unmentioned/unreported.

    It’s just a clumsy and dangerous article to write. I’ve held a lot of respect for SLR Lounge, and I’m not really one for censorship, but this should have been vetted a bit more. Enjoying being a nude model is not the same as wanting to have a man ejaculate into your eye, and then photograph it.

    I’m a man who loves football, but I don’t love or even like watching people fight.

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  12. Tally

    Stepping away from my own emotional views of Terry Richardson and his work, I don’t think this article was sexist or a “mansplaination”. If anything as women we shouldn’t place a man’s view(s) below or above ours, but equivalent. So the fact that you’re disregarding the article based on the sex of the writer is pretty sexist. It’s one thing to disagree, it’s another to throw disparaging sexist comments around simply because you don’t agree. As a woman, I found his points valid and/or thought provoking.

    Kishore, I agree and disagree with the witch-hunt on Terry Richardson. I do feel that it’s easy to place some of these high-profile characters on a pedestal to either see them as the victims of their own stardom or the victimisers of those striving to gain their own glory through association. Yes, it’s critical to research, know the photographer and gain an insight on how he/she conducts his/herself, but there is a degree of trust that we as humans gain in people when others are putting their stamps of approval on them (i.e. Obama, Beyonce GQ, etc.). If certain people are moving past the rumours spread online, then it gives us trust that these rumours are nothing more than gossip. That sad part is the world we live in does give wiggle room for people to be taken advantage of, so I feel that he should be investigated and if proof is provided then a movement to dissuade the world from idolising his work should be backed. As of right now, I have no opinion on whether or not he did indeed behave inappropriately with these women because I wasn’t there. These may be lies and allegations, or horrible truths. Until we know, I’ve chosen no sides in the #nomoreterry boycott.

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  13. Laura

    The entire fascination behind Richardson is the fact that he is so controversial. There is nothing stated in this article that isn’t true. The author did a good job of stating his opinion based on FACTS as opposed to people get up in arms about the author stating his “manpinion” solely due to the fact that he does not support the #nomoreterry movement. In order to be a feminist you do not have to support every such movement, it would be both redundant and pointless.

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  14. Pye

    Awesome article Kish. Only the models, Terry and those that were present truly understood the situation. Getting an unbiased view out of any of them would be difficult if not impossible. But, I agree with you 100% in that if you are going to work with Terry, you should understand and be prepared for the working environment. I also understand that if you are a new model trying to make it, getting on the bad side of a behemoth like Terry, can ruin your career. That such a model might feel forced to just “go along.” These situations are tough to speak on, but I admire your objective approach to a situation which is already emotionally charged enough.

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    • hmmmmmm

      Wow… I think I understand your position. Terry is a guy. Guys pull out their penis and jerk off in women’s faces during work all the time. So if you didn’t put that together and realize that the guy would jerk off in your face during work, then its your fault for not researching and understanding guys… oh, I am guy, I just didn’t realize that I was supposed to jerk off in women’s faces at work. Now I know.

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  15. cassandra

    Nice article, Kishore. I appreciate your points of view and objectivity with this touchy subject. It seems that most women just want to attack Terry Richardson, and don’t even take the time to even read what you’re saying here – you are merely stating the facts with tact and flair.

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  16. Ashley

    I don’t find Terry Richardson or this author particularly sexist…yes Richardson’s photographs are highly sexual, but so are a million others.

    “It should be understood that the very intention of some photos, as it was with paintings, is to excite, to be explicit, and to idealize the perverse side that’s so intrinsic to the human condition. It’s all evocative.”

    What would be the point of any photographs or articles if they weren’t to evoke emotion and incite discourse?
    Interesting article

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  17. gofsckyourselfsilly

    If you’re going to boycott Terry Richardson for objectifying women (which I don’t disagree with), then at least have the logical consistency to do the same with EVERY fashion store, site, blog, campaign, magazine, etc… that promotes and perpetuates our societies objectification of women.

    I don’t understand all the hype over what he’s doing when there are literally thousands of photographers and companies doing the same damn thing all the time.

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  18. C

    As a woman, there is no question of whether or not he deserves it. Thank you for the mansplaination.

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  19. jenwah

    Hey Kishore, Wow, brave of you to decide to get this article out there the way you did. I’m gonna guess many might think you have a little sympathy with uncle terry, but I hope they take a breath and realize that you’re simply being objective, at least that’s the way it seems to me.

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  20. anonymous

    Quite honestly, I’m not surprised this was written by a man. How about you give two opinions when touching on a hot button like this. I find Richardson’s work tacky and tactless – but what do I know? I’m just a woman.

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