Look, first of all, I really enjoy photographer Terry Richardson’s work. I check Terry’s Diary probably once or twice a week, and I find it inspires me to make rad statements with furniture like this chair at Interview Magazine and also, to touch Pauly D’s hair . Yes, I have noticed he takes a lot of pictures of naked girls, and they’re not my thing so much, but it’s never really stood out. Lately, however, there’s been some question about whether or not his work really exploits women.
He recently photographed a lesbian fashion orgy for Purple Magazine. You can check it out here: Terry’s naked fashion shoot. It’s eye-catching. It was also photographed without Terry getting nudity approval from the model’s agents, which was kind of surprising, but at least one model on the shoot says that the nudity happened organically. A few days ago, Abby Kershaw remarked to the Times UK:
“Terry doesn’t force girls to do anything they don’t want to. He puts you in a G-string in a pile of mud because you want to do it. You touch yourself because you want to. For me, that shoot was the truth about how things were between us both, and I felt good doing it. I’m not ashamed of it — why should I be?”
Look, as a general rule, I’m of the “hey, we’re all naked under our clothes anyway so let’s not be all shocked by it,” school, but I have to admit that there has never been a point in my life when I’ve thought, “I feel like getting into a g-string and jumping into this pile of mud.” Maybe that’s just me, though?
Meanwhile, German model Rie Ramussen is horrified, and remarked to Page Six:
“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….His ‘look’ is girls who appear underage, abused, look like heroin addicts . . . I don’t understand how anyone works with him….I told him, “what you do is completely degrading to women. I hope you know you only fuck girls because you have a camera, lots of fashion contacts and get your pictures in Vogue.” Instead of arguing with me, Terry ran out of the bar. Then the next day, he called my agency and complained I called him names in front of clients in Paris. It was the most cowardly thing I have ever seen.”
On one hand, I’m inclined to say, well, if he is taking advantage of under-aged girls, then Rie Ramussen is right to be upset. However, I’m also inclined to say that he probably called your agency and told them you called him names in front of clients in Paris because you called him names in front of clients in Paris.
Terry says “I don’t like to exploit anybody. Everyone has fun on my shoots.”
Again, if these girls do feel pressured into this, then it definitely seems exploitative. However, I can’t help but feel that if Terry were running around taking naked pictures of larger women rather than young skinny models (the women most likely to be at a photoshoot) we’d all be talking about how empowering his work is. It strikes me that it’s fairly hard to make a call unless you have a model actually saying “I felt bad about it.” But then, Rie Ramussen may be right – maybe saying “I felt bad about it” would mean that other photographers would think that you’d be difficult to work with.
But, really, if you’re a model don’t you kind of expect this sort of thing to happen when you work with Terry Richardson? The pictures on the shoot seem like the kind of thing that I see on Terry’s Diary every time I visit it. But, true confession, I did some nude modeling in college, so the line between okay-naked and bad-naked may be a little blurred for me. How do you feel about the whole controversy?