Famed photographer Terry Richardson, who has shot everyone from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Oprah, and Carine Roitfeld to a bevy of topless models, is no stranger to controversy. His latest works - directing Miley Cyrus' controversial "Wrecking Ball" video and shooting a string of revealing photos of the singer - have caused quite a stir, but even more recently, a Change.org petition is gaining steam and Richardson is at the center of it.
Alice Ehrenfried of Southampton, UK, a jewelry designer, has launched the Change.org petition entitled "Vogue, H&M, Mango, Supreme, & all other brands: Stop using alleged sex offender Terry Richardson as your photographer." According to the petition, "Richardson, a favorite of the fashion crowd, has exploited models, produced "degrading pornographic imagery" and generally exercises unprofessional and inappropriate behavior; allegations that are based on multiple first-person reports from models, such as Coco Rocha, Jamie Peck and Rie Rasmussen, whose confessions made their way to mainstream media over the past few years. The petition urges magazines and fashion brands to "Stop using alleged sex offender Terry Richardson as your photographer.
By continuing to employ him for editorial fashion shoots, or to run advertising campaigns shot by him is to CONDONE his behaviour." We caught up with Ehrenfried, who spoke exclusively to us about Terry Richardson, the petition (which as of this weekend has nearly 4,000 signatures), who is on her side, and more ...
The Fashion Law - How old are you and what is your occupation?
Alice Ehrenfried - I am 18 years old and a young entrepreneur. I am currently on my "gap year" between college and university. However, I have decided not to go to university but to continue with my vintage jewelry business.
The Fashion Law - Have you ever met Terry Richardson?
Alice Ehrenfried - Personally, I have never been in a situation where I would come into contact with Richardson. Many people have asked me why I started the petition if I never met the man. The fact that I have not met him does not stop myself having a huge amount of empathy for those individuals effected by him.
The Fashion Law - What prompted you to start the petition?
Alice Ehrenfried - To be honest, the final straw was a series of articles I read about him and pictures I had seen. I think the combination of seeing the Miley Cyrus pictures - worryingly provocative for such widely publicised photographs, reading a Jezebel article and discovering "the old Terry" Tumblr brought about the type of anger that pushes you to do things. I compiled together my research and begun the petition.
The Fashion Law - What do you hope to accomplish with the petition?
Alice Ehrenfried - My main aim for this petition is to create awareness. The more people that read my petition and think - hang on a minute, degrading pictures of women shouldn't be taken as "the norm," and actually there is something really wrong about this and we should be able to do something about it.
I don't want Richardson to be an example to young people who look at these pictures and think that they are acceptable. In mainstream media, Richardson has the impression of being well-received despite potentially unethical and degrading practices going on behind the scenes.
Not only this, but I pen-ultimately want big brands such as the likes of Vogue, H&M, Supreme to become aware of some of Richardson's explicit photographs and actually question: why am I associating my brand image with this man and these types of photographs? By continuing to use Richardson as a photographer, we as a brand are actually condoning his behavior.
Finally, I wanted to give women and men a voice, for them to speak up about assault and uncomfortable situations and to encourage any models that have worked with Richardson to have a voice and receive justice if they have had to do more than the bargained for on a photoshoot or engage in a type of sexual activity on a shoot that crosses any unprofessional and unethical boundaries.
The Fashion Law - Do you think the petition has been successful so far?
Alice Ehrenfried - So far, I think the petition has been very successful, I am overwhelmed, it has just gone viral and signatures are still coming in as much as every minute at some points in the day. It seems to me that this petition has given people a voice for people who have heard about Richardson before. Many people have congratulated saying 'finally!' 'about time!' It's as if people have been bottling up their feelings about Richardson and now suddenly they have means to express everything that they feel about him.
Many photographers have come forward and told me they 'hate what Richardson represents' and that it 'makes them ashamed to be a photographer'. A signature from France told me that ' ever since he began taking pictures I have found him to be a glorified porn photographer. I've often felt like the child in the Emperor's New Clothes when pointing this out to others in the industry. I am very happy to see that I am not alone in my opinion of this retched individual.' Together, over 4,500 voices are very powerful and I hope that this will continue to grow and grow.
My wish is for this not to be a repeat of the Savile case (not suggesting that Richardson is a pedophile but in the sense that 'everybody knew and nobody spoke'). We have had signatures from all over the world from men and women, photographers and models, victims of sexual abuse and everyday people, concerned about his behaviour to the extent in which they want to bring about change. However there is still some traditional misogyny from those who continue to idolize Richardson.
The Fashion Law - Has anyone notable reached out to you in response to the petition?
Alice Ehrenfried - I have had several models and a few supermodels signing the petition, notably Rachel Blais, model and advocate for change in the modelling industry, Olga Hendriks, Dovile Davidaviciute, Ivonee Weigelt, a German model. Karla Divine, a model who has shot with Richardson himself. Also, a friend of mine, young reputable photographer Rosie Hardy who has some celebrity clientele, has been fully supportive of the campaign, too.