Some say that fashion photography is fraught with questionable goings on. I never did experienced that. And as half of the photographers were either gay males or women, the thought never crossed my mind. Was I always mindful of ages and having respect for the people I worked with? Sure. But I’m pretty nice with everyone. Male, female, young or old. But, more than half of the new models were not only under 18,…but some were as young as 12! I’ve seen 14 year olds living in model houses with parents nowhere to be found. Who lets their 14 yo daughter live in NYC without parental guidance? Now that I have an 11 yo girl, I can definitely say,…”Not me!” In reality, I can’t even recall one shoot where multiple people weren’t present. So, that brings us to Terry Richardson. Have I met models that had work with him? Yes. Did I ever hear a complaint? No. And everything they are now saying may be true. However, you would have to ‘walk a mile’ in another man’s shoes to judge.
Fashion Photography Myths
Terry Richardson, from all reports, is worth about $5 million. While Conde’ Nast and others are bailing on him, and while he’s no Bill Gates, I would guess with the sales of books, the clients that haven’t jumped ship, ongoing exhibits and his personal friendships with many celebrities,… he’s just fine. And they can’t “undo” his work. What? Is Pirelli going to call back all the books? Can Vogue or Rolling Stone undo his covers? While what they say about him may or may not be true, I would be uncomfortable throwing stones. And I hope all this sudden indignation from companies that formerly did the ol’ ‘wink-wink’ dance is not attributable to the “Harvey Weinstein” effect. I would suppose any people, (men?), in powerful positions, are on pins and needles, whatever the industry. While I commend shining the light of day on the assaults or harassment of anyone,… I just hope it’s warranted in this case. Conde’ Nast has never been known as a bastion of civil discourse. Did they just unwillingly succumb to a hashtag? (#MeToo) I would hope not.
Terry Richardson got into photography a little late. His father was the well respected fashion photographer, Bob Richardson. Unfortunately, due to drugs and alcohol, his potential was never realized. Terry wanted to become a musician and played bass guitar for ‘The Invisible Government’. I would suppose photography was the farthest thing from his mind at the time. While his Mom gave him a camera in 1982, and he enjoyed recording the goings on of the band, it wasn’t until 1992 that he became serious. (or as “serious” as he could muster)
NYC, Here I Come!
He left the West Coast and headed for NY. He spent years photographing the New York City nightlife. Of course, NYC was where his Dad had plied his trade, and worked for the major fashion magazines. Within 2 years he was being published in Vibe. This provided a small amount of recognition in the fashion industry. He finally started working with British designer Katharine Hamnett in 1995. His in your face and racy style was starting to evolve. And while he did get mixed reviews, I guess there’s really no such thing as bad publicity. As his style developed, legions of photographers were appalled with his use of a “point and shoot” camera and “redeye”. I still don’t know why anyone should care. I think it undermined a “perceived acceptable technique” among “serious” photographers. Personally, I thought it was great.
In 2001, Terry Richardson was hired to shoot Gucci. His unique snapshot style was a big departure for Gucci. But, then, so was Tom Ford. Some thought Terry’s work was kind of obscene, but it spawned quite a few imitators. And seemingly endless derision by the technocrats of photography. When “Terryworld” came out in 2004, that pretty much sealed his niche. Whether you love him or hate him, think of him as a soft porn purveyor operating under the guise of “art”,…or just plain scandalous, he found his groove and made the most of it. But no man is totally good or bad. Richardson continues his charity work supporting art, wildlife conservation and other causes.
Power Corrupts,…Or So I’m Told
However, with fame comes power. And you know the old saying; “Power Corrupts”. Besides all the allegations, and some hard years of depression and drug abuse, he was able to expand his skill set to music videos with Lady GaGa and Miley Cyrus, including Miley’s “Wrecking Ball”. It pretty much reflected his still photographic style. What did you expect? I’m sure the artists knew what they wanted. So, is the fashion industry cracking down on Richardson’s photography or him? Or is this just a half-hearted CYA move by the fashion houses and fashion photography magazines spawned by a gaggle of legal eagles? It reminds me of Sergeant Schultz in the old TV series I sometimes watch on cable; ‘Hogan’s Heroes’. “I know nothing!”
Check out his ‘Diary’ website link below. And you should have at least one of his books in your collection. There’s “Terry Richardson: Volumes 1 & 2: Portraits and Fashion Box Edition”, “Lady GaGa”, “Terrywood” and, of course, “Terryworld”. While he doesn’t use a Yashica T4 anymore, (he uses a Nikon D series), his finished work is what has cemented his celebrity and fashion photography legacy.