Should Terry Richardson Be Guilty Until Proven Innocent? [Updated]
In case you were living in a hole over the weekend, creeper fashion photographer Terry Richardson has found himself at the center of a media scandal. Again. Last week Alice Ehrenfried launched a petition on Change.org calling upon major brands and magazines to stop condoning Richardson’s actions by giving him work. The petition is titled “Vogue, H&M, Mango, Supreme, & all other brands: Stop using alleged sex offender Terry Richardson as your photographer”. It currently boasts 7,500 signatures, with a goal of 50,000.
But not all women are rallying behind Ehrenfried. On October 14 Everyday Feminism shared the petition via their Facebook page, igniting a chain of responses from women uneasy about the Terry Richardson ‘witch hunt’. Some of the responses below:
Tracy Hitchcock This person’s actions sound reprehensible, but witch hunts are a dangerous thing. Disappointed that this is being perpetuated here.
Micaela Grant He hasn’t been actually accused of anything yet, which means it’s unfair to give him the title of “sex offender”. That being said, there’s more than a few accounts of him sexually harassing models, he’s not exactly unknown in the industry as a creep.
Terry Plumb-Clark If “alleged” is the operative word here then why are you the judge and jury? So far we still have an innocent until proven guilty system here – though many people are quick to ignore it. Post facts, not allegations please.
If you work in fashion or have ever stumbled across the harrowingly NSFW Tumblr blog Old Terry, it’s nearly impossible to deny that he’s creepy and perverted. But it’s also pretty easy to see why people who haven’t seen his less commercial work might be perturbed by the fact that 7,500 people have been so quick to jump on the petition. The presumption of innocence obviously doesn’t just apply to fashion, and being the creepy uncle of fashion photography isn’t the same as being a convicted sex offender.
But this is a man who gets girls to suck him off while they’re INSIDE A TRASH CAN, and to do the same thing with the word ‘SLUT’ written across her forehead. These are not allegations, and he is hired by influential fashion brands and magazines who are well aware of the facts and send girls to shoot with him regardless. What the petition will hopefully achieve is to make the perpetration of pornographic images featuring young, naive models less acceptable within the industry, and to persuade the models themselves to follow in the footsteps of Coco Rocha and Jamie Peck by coming forward with more evidence.
We talked to Ehrenfried about what she hopes 50,000 signatures will do and why we shouldn’t just wait around for more disturbing facts to emerge. Read the petition here, too, if you haven’t already.
What is your relationship with Terry and how are you aware of his work?
I have never spoken to or met Terry. However that doesn’t stop myself having a kind of relationship with Terry in the sense that I am a female. And these women being photographed by Richardson, and these women with allegations against Richardson represent me, and I represent them. So, Richardson is a part of me as he has contributed to a certain kind of branding towards women. I am aware of his work because how can you not be? First it was the front covers, then the Jezebel articles, then the Miley Cyrus pictures, then the Lady Gaga pictures, and then when digging a little deeper, the whole host of explicit images on Tumblr. And I haven’t even mentioned all the things in between. I stumble across Richardson, even unintentionally.
What happens when the petition reaches 50,000 signatures?
Then 50,000 people in the world are aware of Terrys alleged actions, these allegations and the explicit, degrading content of some of his work. Already a difference is being made, H&M have stepped forward stating ‘If these accusations are true, it’s totally unacceptable to us. Currently we’re not working with Terry Richardson.’ Many people now choosing to boycott brands that Richardson works with and I have a couple of leads of peoples experiences with Richardson. When the 50,000 signatures have been achieved I will be making contact with all big brands such as Vogue, Supreme, H&M, Tom Ford etc that have worked with Richardson. I will be encouraging models to come forward and I will aim for even more signatures, hopefully justice will be achieved, however this is not entirely in my hands. There will also be other media strategies I will be developing to raise yet more awareness. Big things are just around the corner!
Why do you think feminists like Lena Dunham and Gloira Steinem choose to work with Terry?
Lack of knowledge, lack of research. And when you haven’t done your research, the prospect of getting your name out there, which Richardson is likely to achieve for you, is very exciting, for anyone. This is why no photographer with his status should not abuse his power. I ask myself, if Dunham and Steinem had dug a little deeper and discovered the Old Terry Tumblr and read the allegations, whether they would have worked with him. It’s all about being able to say no and turn down such a big opportunity of working with Richardson for what’s right, which penultimately is what they didn’t do.
There has been a bit of backlash regarding the presumption of innocence. What do you think this petition does to the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’?
Sure, I believe in innocence until proven guilty, but at the same time any allegations against Richardson need to be treated extremely seriously. Accusations, for example, the one by Jamie Peck where she says ’Richardson eventually “maneuvered” her over to a couch in his studio, where he “strongly suggested I touch his terrifying penis.”‘ should not be ignored, and the correct justice for either party needs to be brought about, which is ultimately what this petition is trying to achieve. If he has committed these crimes, then big brands need to stop working with him. However in the meantime awareness, in the form of my petition, needs to be raised to encourage those with allegations against Richardson to step forward and achieve justice.
UPDATE: The petition now has over 10,000 signatures and the Old Terry Tumblr, featuring Richardson’s most violent and degrading work, has been taken down. An explicit Tumblr featuring Miranda Kerr has also been removed.
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