Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Villain?
Editor’s Note: The allegations against photographer Terry Richardson from last week disturbed many in our community and we received quite a few contributions on the topic. Today, we’re running two of the best. You can find another take right here.
You might have heard of Terry Richardson before, especially if you’re a fan of fashion photography. Terry’s famous for sexual imagery, and helped bring more provocative and thought-provoking photos to light in major fashion advertisements. Starting his craft while he was in high school, he went on to shoot campaigns for many major labels, including Marc Jacobs and Aldo, as well as for well established magazines, like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He was the individual who directed the video for “Wrecking Ball” (which brought a lot of negative press towards Miley Cyrus). He’s massively talented with photography. Admitting that his images are controversial is an understatement – however, shouldn’t art be a little controversial?
Here’s something else you should know about Terry – in recent days, numerous models have reported absolutely horrific stories about him after working with him in a professional setting. While the pictures are stunning, his behavior towards the women he shoots is definitely questionable, if not alarming. Keep in mind, Terry never had the cleanest reputation – but after 24-year-old model Charlotte Waters revealed her story to Vocativ recently, other models have come forth to say that their experience with Terry has been identically horrifying.
“It’s hard not to look back at this stuff and see that I was a rapist’s dream, completely naive and trusting, but passive and shy on top of that,” said Charlotte – who first opened up about the experience anonymously through Reddit, yet later chose to reveal her identity. She was only 19 when it all happened. While the details are pretty crude and upsetting, it can be summarized as complete and total sexual molestation. “I realized that what happened to me is something that has happened to other people and will likely continue to happen until his dick falls off, so I have to say something,” she continued. “I did it through Reddit because I could do it anonymously, and that seemed like a safe way to start.”
She made sure to also let Vocativ know that while she was familiar with Terry’s work, and had done nude modeling in the past, she didn’t know Terry Richardson’s reputation for being directly involved in the photos and “crossing all these boundaries.” There’s no doubt about it that Terry’s “art” comes from a perverted and damaged mind.
However, he’s not the first, nor the last artist whose questionable and dangerous lives behind the scenes come to light after they’ve reached a legendary status. Think about Woody Allen, whose 28-year-old adopted daughter Dylan Farrow came out to say he sexually assaulted her more than two decades ago.
While the charges were originally made during a breakup and custody dispute between Allen and Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow, they came to light again when Woody was set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In an open letter, Dylan wrote the following:
The letter hit certain celebrities the wrong way, especially those who were name-checked and had an involvement in Woody’s productions. Scarlett Johansson, who starred in many of his films, said “I’m unaware that there’s been a backlash [against Woody]. I think he’ll continue to know what he knows about the situation, and I’m sure the other people involved have their own experience with it. It’s not like this is somebody that’s been prosecuted and found guilty of something, and you can then go, ‘I don’t support this lifestyle or whatever.'”
The big question is – can you support the creative minds when you’ve learned that they’ve physically and mentally destroyed others during the process? Can you view a piece of Terry’s work and find it as riveting when there’s a lingering thought that his beautiful and strong subject was abused during the process? Would you be able to listen to your favorite song by your favorite band, if you later learned that the lead singer was a sexual predator? While celebrity status has gotten many of our tabloid-worthy celebrities out of jail for potentially dangerous DUI’s and reckless behavior, can we really face the other way when they’ve raped, threatened, or emotionally damaged another human being for life?
Personally, I can’t. Sure, these are all allegations. But it takes a lot for someone to open up about their past negative experiences, especially if the predator is well-known and respected in their field – and especially if they have nothing to personally gain from it. Chances are, they risk a lot by attaching their name to their scandals, as Dylan and Charlotte did – but if it meant protecting another innocent woman, it’s worth the awkward future google search results.
Terry responded to his allegations by submitting a response to the Huffington Post, which stated the following:
Since Charlotte said her pictures were never released, I can’t view her account of the situation as anything other than a big name taking advantage of an inexperienced teenager. And while I can’t deny the fact that Woody and Terry have been pioneers in their craft, I can’t shake the fact that they used their talents in their profession as an excuse to act so inhumanely.
Readers, as this is quite the controversial issue, I’d love to hear your opinions. How do you view the work that you adore from an artist after realizing that aspects of their personal lives are seriously in question?