An exclusive report from the UK’s The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday that media group Condé Nast International, which owns some of the world’s most high-profile publications (Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired and Glamour) has blacklisted fashion photographer Terry Richardson.
Richardson, 52, who has been dogged for years by rumours of sexually harassing young models and actresses within the worlds of fashion and entertainment, has nonetheless built a reputation for himself as one of the most sought after photographers around, having worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham.
Ironically, the ban comes after an article in WWD in which ad exec David Lipman claimed to have never witnessed any sexual harassment on set, mentioning working with Richardson personally.
The report shed light on an email from the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer James Woolhouse to all staff, stating “I am writing to you on an important matter. Condé Nast would like to no longer work with the photographer Terry Richardson. Any shoots that have been commission[ed] or any shoots that have been completed but not yet published, should be killed and substituted with other material.”
Though no new claims per se have emerged, the allegations of sexual misconduct which have overshadowed Richardson’s career for many years have resurfaced, particularly in light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which dozens of actresses have claimed harassment by the producer over a number of decades.
Richardson, whose work is known for being sexually explicit and lewd in tone, has always denied allegations of coercion or exploitative behaviour, and last week released a carefully worded statement, addressing the ‘rumours’ surrounding his behaviour. “I collaborated with consenting adult women who were fully aware of the nature of the work, and as is typical with any project, everyone signed releases. I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do. I give everyone that I work with enough respect to view them as having ownership of their free will and making their decisions accordingly, and as such, it has been difficult to see myself as a target of revisionist history.”
It’s hard to overlook the power imbalance inherent in such a situation, of an influential photographer with the clout to open doors, and someone perhaps starting out, hoping for a career opportunity and to make connections. Hardly a level playing field. Nonetheless, his words conflict with scores of accounts of harassment going back years.
Speaking to The Evening Standard regarding the ban, a rep for Richardson said: “Terry is disappointed to hear about this email especially because he has previously addressed these old stories. He is an artist who has been known for his sexually explicit work so many of his professional interactions with subjects were sexual and explicit in nature but all of the subjects of his work participated consensually.”
Condé Nast is no doubt sending a signal, and we hear it loud and clear. Whilst this cannot undo the damage no doubt wrought on those affected, it sounds like a first, and definitive, step in the right direction.