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How Can We Get Big Brands to Stop Working With Terry Richardson? [Updated]

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Last week on Reddit, another model came forward with disturbing allegations about photographer Terry Richardson's abusive behavior. According to her account, when she was 19 years old, she visited the photographer at his studio; he and his assistant sexually degraded her in a series of acts that culminated with Richardson ejaculating into her eyes (and photographing it). You can read the full statement here.

Disclaimer: As Reddit is a crowd-sourced platform and the model has not identified herself, her story has not been independently verified — but these are hardly the only allegations against Terry Richardson. The most well-known account probably comes from Jamie Peck, who wrote about her experiences for The Gloss in 2010; the list of models who have spoken out against his work also includes Rie Rasmussen, Coco Rocha, Alice Shoemaker and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff

The Reddit posting was spotted by Jezebel writer Callie Beusman, who notes that despite the torrent of allegations against Richardson, he continues to be one of fashion industry's favorite working photographers: "In the past 30 days, he's shot Lady Gaga for Harper's BazaarLea Michele and Jennifer Hudson for VLeBron James for GQ, Stacy Martin of Nymphomaniac fame for Purple Fashion, and Kate Moss for Lui."

Every six months or so, we see a renewed surge of outrage over Richardson's creepy work and allegedly exploitative behavior on set. Last October, the news was a Change.org petition which asked big brands to stop working with an alleged sex offender. (Over 24,000 people signed — that's less than half of the 60,000 signatures target.)

On its own, signing an Internet petition hasn't been an effective tactic to oust Richardson from his powerful perch. It hasn't even led him or the magazines he works with to address the allegations seriously. Neither has five years of Internet outrage: who can count how many millions of blog comments, Facebook posts and Tweets speaking out against him have gone unanswered? Of course, social media outrage has a short attention span and perhaps brands don't feel sufficient pressure to cut ties with Richardson, especially as so many other publications continue to work with him; the lack of response could also be related to the fact that today's magazines are focused on establishing themselves as digital entities, and are happy to be the subject of any social media attention, even the negative kind.

So what can we do to stop publications from hiring him? First of all, we should all continue doing the basics: sign and share the Change.org petition; tweet the editors, stylists and celebrities who work with him; don't buy magazines that feature his photos.

But I would also encourage you to actually call publications directly when you see them working with Richardson; phone numbers for all the major magazines are available online and it is much harder to ignore a phone call than a Tweet. And if people get into the habit of calling, it might create enough of a nuisance that organizations would be forced to address the issue — at least internally. 

[UPDATE: March 12 — The anonymous Reddit model has come forward publicly with an interview on Vocativ.com. Now a 24-year-old nurse's assistant living in Los Angeles, Charlotte Waters says she had prior experience posing nude for artists like Richard Kern and Ron English, and nothing had prepared her for what happened when she visited Terry Richardson's studio. Waters says she came forward because so much of the available press about Richardson is vague and deals only with allegations. "I wanted to say, 'Hey, I’ve experienced this first hand. These aren’t just rumors.'" Read the full interview here and read our follow-up here: The Anonymous Reddit Model Has Come Forward with Terry Richardson Allegations]

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