Jamie Peck, the model who, four years ago, "wrote a firsthand account of [her] dealings with fashion photographer Terry Richardson in an attempt to clarify an ongoing debate about whether he’d been abusing his position of power to coerce sexual favors from young models," is speaking out again. This time, she has taken to the New York Observer in response to Richardson's recent open letter (you can catch that here).
Reflecting on her original article, Peck says: "I hoped to remove any benefit of the doubt people might be giving him about how he obtained his most explicit images: at least in my experience, not with prior informed consent from all parties involved, but via manipulative bait-and-switch tactics he’d seemingly been honing for years."
And the response, according to Peck, has been pretty ugly: "I’ve been called a liar, a famewhore and a malicious writer of 'revisionist history' ... And Mr. Richardson has continued on his merry way, shooting pictures of Beyonce and Lady Gaga, garnering a lighthearted profile in The New York Times, and nailing a succession of young, reluctant-but-not-technically-raped girls with impunity." Peck has similarly strong words this time around, as well.
Here are some excerpts from her most recent writing:
This all must finally be making a dent in his bookings, or at least his reputation, because Mr. Richardson recently deigned to respond to the allegations at length, for the first time, in a letter published by Huffington Post ... And as time passed I felt the need to chime in, because seriously, fuck this guy.
Mr. Richardson begins by calling the whole brouhaha “a cycle of Internet gossip and false accusations against me.” Another word he throws around is “libelous.” If he really thinks I’ve libeled him, he’s welcome to sue me ... But then I’d counter-sue him for libel as well, because I stake my livelihood as a writer of non-fiction on people trusting me to tell the truth.
Like so many before him, he uses “I’m an artist!” as a blank check to do as he likes, missing the point by about a mile. It’s not his art that’s being attacked, but how he goes about making it. It’s just as possible to sexually harass people while making still lifes, snow tires, or office furniture as it is making “challenging artporn” or whatever he calls his work.
From his letter, Peck selected a few lines to emphasize, which she has bolded:
“I collaborated with consenting adult women who were fully aware of the nature of the work ... 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 [...] Believing such rumors at face value does a disservice not only to the spirit of artistic endeavor, but most importantly, to the real victims of exploitation and abuse.”
To this, Peck writes:
If he really wants to make sure his models are “aware of the nature of the work,” why not sit down with them beforehand and talk about what they will and won’t do, as is standard in the American porn industry? [...] Why not have models sign releases after the shoot, not before as is his wont? [...] Why not do everything a man in his position can do to make sure girls aren’t coming away from his studio with symptoms of PTSD? Answer: because he gets off on violating boundaries. Either that, or he’s delusional enough to think that the girls he shoots are all having tons of fun with him.
She cites a lack of standards to protect models in the fashion industry:
One doesn’t have to make explicit offers or threats to benefit from an uneven power dynamic. That’s why we have sexual harassment laws (for everyone but models, anyway). In the case of castings, the offer of work is implicit. Especially when a girl’s agency has instructed her to make the guy happy at all costs and sent her there without a chaperone. I have heard stories of people who made the opposite decision—who said no—and just like that, the casting was over. We need these standards to protect the girls who say no just as much as the ones who say yes. Nobody should be forced to make that kind of decision, even if they are technically making it of their own “free will.”
And she closes her piece with this paragraph:
It boils down to this: you don’t have to be dumb to be manipulated by a powerful sociopath. As long as structures are in place that allow this to happen, it’s going to keep happening, and Terry Richardson is only one example. But the tide is turning against men like him, so hopefully most people will see his letter for what it is: an attempt to throw a thin smokescreen of excuses over some truly unjustifiable shit.