In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, which led to the famous film producer’s dismissal from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ousting from the company he founded with his brother, The Sunday Times has asked why fashion is still working with photographer Terry Richardson, who was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting models in 2010, 2013, and 2014. After the article was published on Sunday, the Telegraph obtained an email sent from Condé Nast International’s James Woolhouse early Monday morning announcing that the publishing giant, which owns Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Vanity Fair, and more, would no longer work with Richardson, and that any material commissioned by him must be “killed or substituted with other material.”
There have been no new allegations against “Uncle Terry,” but the parallels between Richardson—who’s been called “the world’s most fucked-up photographer,” a “predator,” and “fashion’s shameful secret”—and Weinstein are glaringly obvious to some, replete with blind eyes, whispers, and shrugs. Like the portly film mogul, whose deviant, decades-long actions came to light in a groundbreaking exposé in The New York Times earlier this month, Richardson’s predatory behavior among young models has had little to no impact on his career, save for a reputation some might consider “creepy.” In 2010, two days after Danish model Rie Rasmussen told Page Six that he “takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them [that] they will be ashamed of,” model Jamie Peck came forward and alleged that when she was 19, Richardson asked her to touch his penis during a shoot and then ejaculated into a towel. (The pictures were published in Purple.) More allegations followed, including one in 2014 in which a model named Anna claimed he shoved his dick in her face. Since the first round of accusations surfaced, Richardson has gone on to work with everyone from Miley Cyrus and Barack Obama to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and has continued to shoot for big-name glossies and high-profile designers. In the Huffington Post, Richardson called the accusations “vicious and distorted,” and that they’re part of an “emotionally-charged witch hunt” (the same term Woody Allen used to describe the Weinstein scandal).
It’s worth noting that Richardson’s work has often been of a pornographic and sexual nature. His very first campaign for English designer Katharine Hamnett in the mid-’90s, for instance, featured young women in short skirts with their pubic hair showing. His photos are part of a no-holds-barred, NSFW niche in which an admittedly impressive roster of celebrities, models, and designers have all willingly taken part. The explicit and controversial elements of his work are no secret—just look at the flurry of racy photos of Richardson engaging in blatant intercourse with models. There’s often a shock value at play when it comes to Richardson’s work, and given his status, it’s clear that there’s an appetite for the voyeurism and salaciousness. That said, accusations of sexual assault and harassment—which is what some models are alleging Richardson has done—are not to be taken lightly. Posing nude doesn’t justify unwanted sexual advances or an uncomfortable work environment, even if it is, in fact, for “art.” While Richardson, 52, maintains that all the women he’s worked with have consented, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the recent outpour of sexual misconduct claims involving high-profile men, it’s that society, particularly in the creative realm, tends to look the other way until a potential PR nightmare appears. You can be publicly shamed, you can ridiculed on social media, and you can get fired. But you can also become President. As for you, Condé Nast, you’re about seven years too late.