On the heels of a lawsuit filed by male model Jason Boyce against Bruce Weber late last year, the New York Times has revealed that an additional 5 male models have come forth to allege sexual exploitation by photographer Bruce Weber. In a broadening revelation, 13 male models and assistants allege exploitation by Mario Testino. According to the Times, “Models and assistants described how Mr. Testino and Mr. Weber, two of the most prominent photographers in fashion, used their authority to engage in unwanted sexual behavior.”
According to the Times, Weber exhibited “a pattern of … [forcing] unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behavior, often during photoshoots.” There was “a lot of touching. A lot of molestation,” model Robyn Sinclair.
A “Sexual Predator”
As for Testino, those that spoke out recalled incidents involving fondling, masturbation, and excessive nudity in connection with photo shoots. He was a “sexual predator,” asserts model Ryan Locke. Another model, who goes by Taber and who worked with Testino beginning in the late 1990’s, says that the photographer “was a mentor who took it a step too far” when he stuck his hand down the model’s pants and asked him for sex.
Some of the most striking commentary comes from a handful of Testino’s former assistants. According to the times, “Former assistants said Mr. Testino had a pattern of hiring young, usually heterosexual men and subjecting them to increasingly aggressive advances.”
Take Hugo Tillman, for instance. Just out of college, Tillman worked an one of four assistants for the photographer. He told the Times that he was made to give Testino massages, that Testino tried to kiss him on one occasion, and that he threw Tillman onto a bed and pinned him down, on another. Tillman says he filed a report with the New York City Commission on Human Rights last December over his experiences with Testino.
Another former Testino assistant, Roman Barret, who worked with the photographer in the late 1990’s, told the Times that “sexual harassment was a constant reality” when it came to Testino. “He misbehaved in hotel rooms, the backs of cars, and on first-class flights.”
One of fashion’s most sought-after photographers, London-based Mario Testino’s work is regularly featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair, and he regularly photographs ad campaigns for brands ranging from Burberry and Michael Kors to Italian giants Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. The influential photographer, who is said to bring in over $200,000 for a day’s worth of work, was presented with an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) January 14, 2014 by the United Kingdom’s Culture Minister Ed Vaizey in recognition of his career and charity work not long after he took Prince William and Kate’s engagement photos.
Cut Off, A Code
In connection with the New York Times’ report, Anna Wintour and Condé Nast announced they will not commission either photographer “for the foreseeable future.” Additionally, Condé Nast, which owns Vogue, W, Glamour, and Vanity Fair, among other titles, is creating a code of conduct for photoshoots, thereby “relfecting a new reality in the fashion industry,” per the Times’ Vanessa Friedman.
While Condé Nast already maintains a “Code of Ethical Responsibility” – which states, in part, Everything we do should be able to stand the light of day. Working in an ethical way is better for the individual, for the organisation and for the external world which is impacted by the organisation’s products and activities” – it told the Times that it began working in late October on a code of conduct specifically to protect models, which will go into effect this month.
According to Vogue, a few of the provisions in the impending Code include:
*All models appearing in fashion shoots commissioned by Condé Nast must be 18 years of age or older. The only exceptions will be those appearing as themselves as part of a profile, news story, or similar content, and they will be required to have a chaperone on set at all times.
*Alcohol will no longer be allowed on Condé Nast sets. Recreational drugs are not permitted.
*Photographers will no longer be permitted to use a Condé Nast set for any work that is not commissioned or approved by the company.
*Any shoot involving nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie, swimwear, simulated drug or alcohol use, or sexually suggestive poses must be approved in advance by the subject.
According to Anna Wintour, “The goal of these conversations has been to understand how we can create safe and positive environments for everyone we work with.”