“'I’ll put you in Vogue,’ ” Richardson, in his studio, said bitterly. “So corny. Ridiculous. Who talks like that? When people call me a pedophile and fucking bullshit, that’s a horrible thing to say about someone.” An excerpt from New York Magazine's hotly-anticipated profile on controversial photographer, Terry Richardson, entitled, "Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?" Catch a brief overview of Benjamin Wallace's article below and sound off in the comments section because we would love to know your thoughts on New York Magazine's article, Richardson and what all of this says about the current state of the fashion industry …
Richardson’s photographs eschewed makeup and retouching, and he was soon being lumped with a group of photographers whose gritty, lo-fi realism, dubbed “heroin chic,” rejected the artifice of the ’80s. His look borrowed from low-budget porn but also had an irony and humor and playfulness.
Katy Barker, his agent at the time. She recalls a series of pictures Richardson took at a Florida nudist camp for George magazine. “I remember thinking that only Terry could get away with this, because he didn’t do it with any distaste,” she says. “They let him take pictures with a sense of joy, a bit of exhibitionism that a lot of people subconsciously like.”
Editors and art directors took to Richardson. He was polite, humble, collaborative, fast—a pro in all the ways his father [a famed fashion photographer] had not been.
Richardson had also begun cultivating his public persona. On a Sisley shoot, to finish a roll of film, he stepped into the last frame holding a Heineken.
His shoots could get wild, and he made no secret of that. In 2002, he told Vice about his forthcoming calendar for street-style brand Supreme, the goal being “to put together a calendar you could jerk off to.”
As Richardson’s career accelerated, his personal work became more intensely sexual. He now routinely took off his own clothes during shoots, which he explained as simply a gambit to make models comfortable posing naked. In what he would later describe as both a replacement for the substances he’d forsworn and a catharsis of his “issues,” he increasingly photographed himself, or was photographed by his assistants, in a multitude of explicit scenarios.
“It was never just me and a girl ever,” Richardson told me at his studio. “It was always assistants, or other people around, or girls brought friends over to hang out. It was very daytime, no drugs, no alcohol. It was a happening, there was energy, it was fun.
Professional models weren’t all so enthused. Sara Ziff was around 19 when her agency sent her to see Richardson. According to Richardson, it was billed in advance as a semi-nude casting, but Ziff, now the head of the advocacy group Model Alliance, remembers otherwise.
In 2004, Jeffrey Deitch, the downtown gallerist, put together a show of Richardson’s more hard-core work. When several women who worked for Deitch objected to the material, he offered a month’s paid leave. On opening night, the sea of would-be attendees on Wooster Street numbered around 3,000.
That August, the Italian publisher Damiani brought out a Richardson book called Kibosh … Richardson’s penis appears in most of the 358 images. A preponderance of the photographs depict Richardson receiving oral sex or ejaculating on a woman’s face. He called it “my life’s work” and “the summary of my career.”
Richardson has had a lot of psychotherapy. He meditates and attends AA meetings and exercises daily (he’s a regular at SoulCycle).
According to someone close to the situation, as many as nine people depicted in the original Terryworld have threatened Richardson with lawsuits since its publication.
Other than a brief post on his website denying the allegations, Richardson made no public comments, and he seemed to have weathered the controversy. He negotiated a new contract with Harper’s Bazaar … He teamed up with Lady Gaga, the biggest celebrity in the world.
Alex Bolotow, 31, who has worked as an assistant to Richardson for much of the past ten years … takes offense when images of her ["fellating Richardson from inside a trash can; from inside a suitcase, with him pinching her nose shut; under his desk; upside down; with the word SLUT lipsticked on her forehead; in tandem with another woman; wearing a paper In-N-Out Burger cap"] are used to make a case against Richardson. “When I look at those pictures, I’m smiling,” she said. “I’m having the time of my life, I look great, I have a beautiful haircut. This is a great day.”
Joan Juliet Buck, the writer and former editor of French Vogue,suggests the model-photographer dynamic is grayer than internet discourse allows. “When a beautiful young girl is standing on the paper, and the photographer is looking at her—that thing of being told you’re the most beautiful works everyone into a state of desire, where the girl is being appreciated and she feels loved,” she says. “There’s a very fine line between abuse of that innocence and validation of their beauty.”
Read the entire profile on New York magazine's site.