I debated on whether or not to even blog about this, but it's something that I do want to address. I love fashion a lot, but that doesn't make me blind to the negative aspects of it. The sexual exploitation and power imbalance that can define the relationship of photographer to subject, with the whole scandal around Terry Richardson being the most recent and high-profile example, cause a lot of conflict for me. How can an industry that purports to celebrate the female form and allow women to express their creativity and individuality also allow a man like Terry Richardson to continue working?
The exploitation maybe isn't as obvious the higher up you go in the modeling world, but that doesn't mean it's nonexistent at other levels, and to go on pretending that it is does no service to anyone. I've held my tongue before but this time I want to make my feelings known.
Vogue Paris June/July 2010
Ph: Terry Richardson
Styling: Carine Roitfeld
Other Models: Lara Stone
This editorial is lazy, flat and trite with a recycled aesthetic to boot. Was there any effort put into this at all? Because it sure doesn't look like there was. And to even have Lara and Freja mimic Terry's personal trademarks (thumbs up, aviators, wide grin) is absolutely distasteful in my opinion. To be honest, I'm just really disgusted. Not because of what the images look like, but because of who's behind them. For this is a case where I can't separate my feelings out and even attempt to look at this editorial objectively. For me, the scandal and subsequent inaction that has been taken towards Terry have left a very bad taste in my mouth. (How can there be no consequences for his actions? Why are women like Anna, Carine and DvF still working with him? What message is this sending to other photographers and models? What message is this sending to young teens?) From now on, the way I regard any of Terry's work will always be negatively colored. Freja's presence in this editorial isn't even a little bit of a saving grace. In fact, I really hate that she's working with Terry a lot more now than she ever was before. She appears to be such a strong individual that it's disheartening to see her working with such a weak one. And to see her even purposely taking on his persona (like in the 9th picture) is just a slap in the face.
And all the people coming to Terry's defense and making up excuses for his behavior just show me how easy it is to turn a blind eye to the truth when it's beneficial to your own self. It shows me how easy it is to maintain the comfortable status quo instead of enacting change. It shows me how hard and risky it is to actually have the courage to speak out against disgusting actions performed by people in positions of power; for inevitably the judgment, scrutiny and blame will unjustly fall back on the victims. It also makes me realize that the job I do in my day to day life, and the industry that I work in are still as needed as ever in the world today. Perhaps even more so because many people now operate under the assumption that everything and everyone is equal, and that we live in a post-modernist, post-racialist, post-feminist, post-whatever other "ist" you can think of world. Well, clearly we don't.....complacency can be a dangerous thing.
I think Tavi said it best and better than I ever could, and no I'm definitely not afraid to admit when a 14(?) year old is more eloquent than I am. You can agree or disagree, you can tell me I'm overreacting, you can call me a typical American prude (even though I'm not objecting to sexualized photography or nudity, just the impetus behind it), you can say whatever you want to say but nothing can change the way I feel about Terry and consequently, his work.
Nevertheless, I do feel guilty for indulging in fashion as a whole when I know that this Terry situation isn't the first, nor is it an isolated, case. After all, aren't I being complicit simply due to the fact that I consume these images? I do feel like a huge hypocritical ass sometimes, but at least I can recognize and admit that. That's something, right? And maybe I'm no better for merely acknowledging it and then moving on and really doing nothing about it. But that's a battle I'll continue to have with myself (rather than attempt to further play out so poorly on this blog). So this will probably be the last time I do a post about Terry's work with Freja, assuming that they work together again. And for the time being I'll just try to focus on all the good that comes from fashion, but I'll still make sure that I'm at least aware of all the bad.
If you've read this all, thank you for indulging me.....I'll step down from my soapbox now.
Image Credits: Scanned by tFS member Valentine27