Yet another model came out with yet another set of disgusting claims against fashion’s creepiest photographer yesterday, and they were disturbingly similar to the myriad of others that have been revealed in recent years. But the sad truth is that they’ll probably suffer a similar fate.
In the past, trigger warning stories like this have done basically fuck all to convince people not to seek out his arguably very mediocre camera work. Following the anti-Terry petition last year that made headlines everywhere, he’s stayed on the A-OK list of everyone from Harper’s Bazaar and H&M to Jared Leto and even the fashion world’s sprit animals Lupita Nyong’o and Cara Delevingne. Only two weeks ago we said it seems for every model or celebrity who continues to work with the legendary creep, there is someone who refuses to do so again. But more and more it’s seeming the other way around — for everyone who discredits him, there’s another model or even Hollywood darling lining up to take her place.
A Google search for “Terry Richardson allegations” now yields 82,400 results, and that number isn’t likely to stay steady. Let’s recap the decade’s most sickening Richardson revelations, shall we?
Terry’s intern Alex (2004): A decade ago the Observer published an article about a photographer that not many people outside of fashion world had heard of. Ahead of Terry Richardson’s now-infamous Terry World exhibition, Manhattan journalist Phoebe Eaton described, among shots of anonymous models sucking off Uncle Terry, his intern Alex going down on him from inside a trash can while wearing a diamond “Slut” tiara (“’It’s Sesame Street!’ Mr. Richardson explained with a chuckle.”)
Sena Cech (2009): Sena Cech was one of the models who went on camera to talk about the seedy side of the business for Picture Me, a documentary shot by Sara Ziff (who went on to found non-profit The Model Alliance in 2010.) On one shoot, “a photographer, one of the top names in his profession” had his assistant ask Cech for a rather violent hand job: “Sena, can you grab his cock and twist it real hard? He likes it when you squeeze it real hard and twist it.” (The Guardian)
Rie Rasmussen (2010): For the next six years, Richardson continued to create pictures relying on pornographic undertones for effect relatively unhindered. Then, in 2010, model Rie Rasmussen loudly confronted him in Paris. Rasmussen, pissed at Richardson using her photo alongside the photos of naked underage girls in his creepy coffee table version of Terry World, confronted the photographer at a fashion event and called his work “completely degrading” to women and young girls. “He takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves.” Richardson reportedly fled the event before calling Rasmussen’s agency to complain she’d called him names.
Jamie Peck (2010): Soon after that, former model Jamie Peck wrote about a particularly disturbing and degrading Terry Richardson experience she’d had at 19 via an essay for The Gloss. Peck shot with Richardson twice, on the first being asked only to call him “Uncle Terry.” On the second, he suggested making tea with her used tampon before whipping out his dick, strongly suggesting she touch it, and handing her the camera when he sensed her hesitation.
“Before I could say “whoa, whoa, whoa!” dude was wearing only his tattoos and waggling the biggest dick I’d ever seen dangerously close to my unclothed person (granted, I hadn’t seen very many yet). “Why don’t you take some pictures of me?” he asked. Um, sure.
So his assistants took pictures of me taking pictures of him. All the while, he was dropping names like they were hot, casually mentioning his upcoming Miu Miu shoot with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Billy Crudup, wondering aloud if he could get the kid from Elephant to model, and suggesting I come upstate with him and his fab celebufriends. I wish I could say this didn’t impress me, but I was fucking 19 and nerdy as hell, okay?
I’m not sure how he maneuvered me over to the couch, but at some point he strongly suggested I touch his terrifying penis. Who the heck specifically requests a handjob, that most unpopular of sex acts which, were we casting a sex act version of The Breakfast Club, would undoubtedly play the part intended for Anthony Michael Hall? I’ll tell you: high school boys and Terry Richardson. Not that I would’ve preferred him to request anything else, I’m just sayin’: if you ask for an H.J., you are aiming low with complete knowledge that the girl is not into it… This is where I zoom out on the situation.”
Her story is eerily similar to what Richardson told the Observer in 2004: “A lot of it starts with me saying to a girl, ‘Do you want to do nudes?’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t want to be naked.’ So I say, ‘ I’ll be naked and you take the pictures. You can have the camera. You can have the phallus.'” Richardson wouldn’t comment on the allegations.
The Jezebel allegations (2010) : A week after Rasmussen and Richardson’s Paris confrontation, and two days after Jamie Peck’s essay, a bunch of models approached Jezebel with similar stories. Most of them understandably did this anonymously, bar one Sarah Hilker. Hilker was 17 with a fake ID when she attended a Suicide Girls party where Richardson was the event photographer, though most of his work went far beyond the client brief:
“My “friend” looked at me and actually said, “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow!” His friend walked me over to this nearly invisible door to the backstage where the real party was going on. I slowly opened it and walked in. The entire room STOPPED and stared at me. That immediately made me uncomfortable. In one corner there was a literal pile of SG bras and panties and the other was a small table with model release forms. Some stranger immediately grabbed me and whisked me over to the panties pile meanwhile, another person came over to me and shoved a model release form in my face. They had no interest in seeing my I.D. or even asking me any questions. I was being pushed towards the front of the line to go shoot with their panties and a blank model release form in my hands. I hadn’t even had time time get undressed to put them on.
I saw him shooting some obviously inebriated chick straddling a full naked erect guy with her SG panties pulled over to the side one hand on the camera; the other hand grabbing his cock over his pants. I’m like HOLY SHIT! I immediately backed away, ran through a bunch of drunk women, confused business people, and out the door like I had just had the worst nightmare imaginable.
[…]To this day, I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Coco Rocha (2010): While most of the claims up until this point had come from relatively unknown models, in 2010 Coco Rocha, one of the industry’s most prominent faces, asserted during an interview with Fashion magazine that she would never work with Richardson again. Rocha, while listing the things she’s said “no” to, told Fashion: “I’ve shot with [Terry Richardson], but I didn’t feel comfortable and I won’t do it again.” Here’s a sample image from the shoot Rocha is referring to:
Surely a little bukkake never hurt anyone?
Sara Ziff and Alise Shoemaker (2014): When Huffpost Live sat down with Ziff and former child model Alise Shoemaker to talk about forming The Model Alliance, the conversation immediately went to Richardson’s ability to thrive in the fashion industry, despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Ziff, who had worked with Richardson in the past, said she also wouldn’t work with him again and that she can see why young models have trouble defining an exact moment at which the line has been crossed:
“It goes beyond taking off your top. We are talking serious allegations of sexual assault and abuse. I have worked with Terry Richardson several times, and I wouldn’t work with him again based on those experiences…
You are going to a casting to possibly shoot with him for Harper’s BAZAAR, whose one of his clients. That’s a legitimate job, and he will ask you to take your clothes off for the casting and in some cases give him sexual favors. I have spoken with other models who have been in these situations, and he makes you feel like you’re being a prude or you are somehow weird if you are not willing to just go with the flow because it’s all cool. It’s all fine.”
Reddit Model (2014): The very fact that such allegations are no longer surprising is obviously a cause for huge concern, especially as the allegations by then-19-year-old Redditor amaheygirlhey are among the most disturbing yet. They were posted last week on Reddit’s TwoXChromosomes thread and recount a nude photo shoot that turned very X-rated very quickly. Essentially, it involved the girl showing up to Richardson’s studio on a Saturday evening, meeting the photographer’s assistant, signing a release, and being offered some sort of lemon garlic pasta — all apparently part and parcel of taking part in a nude photo shoot. What happened next was definitely not:
“…at some point I was being directed to do things like hold the top of his pants while he took more POV style pictures, then eventually unbutton his pants and then his penis was out. Meanwhile it felt like it was all just happening and there was no time to step back and be like “woah this is out of hand”. I dont think anyone who knows me would describe me as a particularly aggressive person (and definitely wasn’t at 19) and the only way I can describe how I felt was nervous and paralyzed. At some point the assistant started taking pictures too with a crappy point and shoot camera. He had me posing on the couch and then I had my back to him and just literally felt him start licking my ass, like every part of it, and the assistant was taking pictures the whole time. Things were now completely pornographic and never once initiated by me. He was now on the couch with me and it became sexual act after sexual act, aggressive kissing, random sexual things being done to me and being directed to do everything you can think of back, everything slow so his assistant could photograph. He even directed me to squeeze his balls as hard as I could so that they pushed back up into his body. I did not even know that was possible (At least I learned something about the male anatomy that night?). I was completely a sex puppet at this point. It ended with him jacking off on to my face and he told me to keep my eyes open really wide and his assistant stood over me and it got in my eye and they both began taking pics of it for a what felt like 10 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds…”
“Reddit model” then forward as Charlotte Waters, a former model who dabbled in nude photography as an art student to earn extra cash. She also spoke with the NYPD about the incident, though isn’t pressing charges. We reached out to Richardson’s reps for comment and didn’t get a response, but Richardson slammed the claims in a letter provided to Page Six.
Emma J. Appleton (2014): British model Emma Appleton uploaded a screengrab of a message sent to her by someone allegedly named Terry Richardson. Appleton later deleted the message (and her account), telling BuzzFeed she didn’t want “abuse or attention.” Terry’s camp have called the message an “obvious fake.” A Vogue spokeswoman said “We have no plans to work with him in the future.”
“Anna” (2014): The day after Jezebel reported that New York magazine was planning to run a Terry Richardson cover story, a New York-based writer and stylist named Anna spoke exclusively to Jezebel claiming that she too had been photographed and sexually assaulted by Richardson. The assault allegedly happened after the 2008 launch of Delicatessen, when Terry’s assistant Leslie Lessin, previously identified as Richardson’s co-conspirator, asked if she’d be up for an improvised shoot at Terry’s home and studio conveniently a few blocks away. “He had me kind of crouch down on the floor as I moved around, posing,” she wrote in an email. “Then, suddenly, I felt a dick pressing into the side of my face. Terry Richardson’s semi-hard penis was plunged into the outside of my cheek, and he was jabbing it into my face.”
These are only allegations, and a little thing called the presumption of innocence means we can’t just throw him in a prison cell in between R. Kelly and Woody Allen. But hopefully, as more stories inevitably emerge, he’ll find fewer celebrities willing to throw their thumbs up while wearing his pedophile costume glasses. And more magazines realizing his simple flash setup really isn’t worth the day rate anyway.