#1162 Model exploitation isn’t just a Terry Richardson problem, it’s an industry wide problem

Terry Richardson with Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief Carine Roitfeld – Photo: Terry’s Diary

By now you’ve no doubt read about the allegations of sexual exploitation against photographer Terry Richardson. New Zealander Jenna Sauers has been leading the charge over at Jezebel, and doing a fine job of giving a voice to those who wouldn’t normally have one. I like Terry Richardson’s work. Am I surprised to hear these stories? No. Had I considered an exploitative aspect to his photographs previously? Surprisingly, no. I figured all his models were over 18 and they were choosing to do what they were choosing to do. Should I have thought more carefully about the situation before declaring my undying love for him? Absolutely. But do I think the bad press will negatively impact on his career as one of the world’s top fashion photographers? Perhaps, but not as much as many would like.

The problem is, people like his work.

And this is an industry devoted to aesthetics. It’s not an industry devoted to protecting innocents or safeguarding minors against perverts or drugs or eating disorders.

Terry Richardson isn’t the only guy shooting nudie photos of girls in fashion, and I’m sure he’s not the only photographer to shoot with more than his camera on set. But what the allegations against Terry Richardson have done is brought these issues to the forefront of the fashion world. Model age, weight and sexual safety are topical stories that are bandied around year after year. Every season there’s a report written, every season there seems to be a commitment made by designers, photographers, stylists and magazines to change, and every season the same young, thin, vulnerable girls keep doing the same jobs with the same clients, cast by the same casting agents. Only one thing remains constant in fashion – when it comes to models, nothing ever seems to change.

Models need photographers like Terry Richardson more than he needs them. Imagine how weak a position that puts them in. If they’re asked to undress, or pose in a way they don’t want to, or worse still, perform sexual favours, saying no isn’t as simple an option as you’d imagine. Their agents (or parents for that matter) often aren’t there to help them make a sensible decision, it’s a high stress, high pressure environment, and if they’re the sole income earner sending money back to the family in a developing country, what other choice do they have?

But it’s not just an international problem, it happens right here in little old New Zealand too. I’ve been told two separate stories by reliable sources about two under-18 year old girls who were given drugs on the sets of magazine editorials. In one case it was P, given to a 15 year old, the other, speed, given to a 16 year old. The models’ bookers were called by concerned parties in both instances. No action was taken. Both agencies continue to send girls to shoot with the same photographers for the same magazines. Why? Presumably because they didn’t want to spoil relationships with these fabulous people who help promote their girls and make them money. No worries about the nasty stuff, she’ll be right.

None of this will change until somebody in a position of massive power stands up and says enough is enough. The world’s looking at you, Ms Wintour. What are you going to do?


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  1. Michael Radents says

    Im sorry Isaac and to any other Terry fans, but the man is a grot. His outward appearance alone screams dirty-old-sleeze-who-never-quite-grew-up. I feel sorry for models who although given an excellent opportunity to work with Terry as a talent, end up working with someone who is for lack of a better term, a sexual predator.

  2. Anonymous says

    Maybe you could “break” the story of the NZ magazines indulging in this behaviour – surely it would be more beneficial and would protect the models locally rather than re-hashing the Terry Richardson story thats featured in so many international press publications/blogs?
    Speak up Isaac.

  3. Anonymous says

    We all know which magazine in NZ is the one giving/ have given young girls P etc. It’s beyond inappropraite. So why do the Agencies turn a blind eye and not stand up and say something? Just so that their models will get some future unpaid editorials in it????

    Rubbish. Again. NZ Fail

  4. says

    Dear anonymous when you say “we all know which magazine in NZ is giving/has given girls P” why dont you just say it? or is it that you dont know what you are talking about?

  5. Anonymous says

    If you are aware of the NZ magazines that have supplied drugs to young models, but you choose not to speak up, then you are just as culpable as them.

  6. Anonymous says

    yeah, speak up, or are you orotecting them…….Otherwise you are acting like a self loathing industry person…You sound like the people you are hating on….Oh, BTW most editorial doesnt pay models.. Even US Vogue pay a token $150 amount…its the advertising campaigns the models land or hope to land that pays…

  7. says

    Anon 2 – you are not even identifying yourself… not sure what you are afraid of. Anyway, irrespective of how they get the photos or whether photographers are abusing there power is really something that you would be able to obtain first hand.

    I think that photography, fashion or otherwise, has the potential to be contoversial. Look at Bill Henson in Australia last year, and to think that his models were much younger. Even though, I believe but could be wrong, they were supervised by parents/guardians does that make it OK?

    And what was the result of this… well I think that it gave Bill Henson a bigger profile in Australia in the mainstream. I have seen more and more Photos appearring at auctions.

    In regards to weight, I was shocked to see the new POS images at LV this season… It is like Ralph Lauren all over again, well in my opinion anyway!

  8. Anonymous says

    Terry Richardson always seemed wrong to me – the Pirelli calendar case in point. Beautiful nudes and being ‘provocative’ is one thing – Look at Helmut Lang, he had some style. But Terry Richardson is quite another story. I read about the film wich sounds really interesting ‘Picture Me- Exposing The Model Industry’ by Sarah Ziff & Ole Schell, but can’t seem to find a copy!!!

  9. Anonymous says

    Tery Richardson always seemed wrong to me. Case in point – his Pirelli calendar shots. I mean, the bananas? Seriously? Beautiful nudes are one thing – I love Bill Henson – Sleaze is another.

    Provocative doesn’t necessarily mean sleazy – look at Helmut Newton!

    I’ve been dying to get my hands the doco Picture Me by Sarah Ziff – ‘exposing the unattractive side of the modelling industry’. Sounds very inteteresting…

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