Today, Page Six ran a response from Terry Richardson to the recent resurgence of outrage over his alleged sexual misconduct on set. The photographer denies all the charges outright, calling them "hate-filled and libelous tales" and comparing the controversy surrounding him to an "an emotionally-charged witch hunt."
"Four years ago, I chose to primarily ignore a cycle of Internet gossip and false accusations against me. At that time, I felt that to dignify them with a response was a betrayal of my work and my character. When these allegations resurfaced over the past few months, they seemed especially vicious and distorted, moving outside the realm of critical dialogue and becoming nothing more than an emotionally-charged witch hunt."
The recent round of allegations was brought forth by Charlotte Waters, now a 24-year-old nurse's assistant who shot with Richardson as a 19-year-old art student trying to make a little extra cash. She decided to tell her story, first anonymously on Reddit and then publicly on Vocativ, because she kept coming across media coverage about other allegations against Richardson's disturbing on-set behavior:
"I wanted to say, 'Hey, I’ve experienced this first hand. These aren’t just rumors.' But I wasn’t sure I wanted to come out about this very embarrassing thing I did, so I was just sitting on it for a while. And then I realized that what happened to me is something that has happened to other people and will likely continue to happen until his dick falls off, so I have to say something. I did it through Reddit because I could do it anonymously, and that seemed like a safe way to start.”
Coco Rocha: “I’ve shot with him, but I didn’t feel comfortable and I won’t do it again.”
Sara Ziff: "I have worked with Terry Richardson several times, and I wouldn’t work with him again based on those experiences."
According to Richardson, these are all lies:
"Enabled and protected by the freewheeling and often times anonymous nature of the Internet, people have become comfortable concocting hate-filled and libelous tales about my professional and personal lives. In writing this, I make a humble attempt at correcting these rumors, because I have come to realize that absent my voice in the conversation, all that remain are the lies."
Richardson goes on to write that his subjects have always been consenting and that the charges against him are motivated by publications seeking pageviews:
"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. Sadly, in the on-going quest for controversy-generated page views, sloppy journalism fueled by sensationalized, malicious, and manipulative recountings of this work has given rise to angry Internet crusades. Well-intentioned or not, they are based on lies. Believing such rumors at face value does a disservice not only to the spirit of artistic endeavor, but most importantly, to the real victims of exploitation and abuse."
And yes, although articles on the subject of Terry Richardson do generate a tremendous amount of interest online, the allegations against him were brought by individual women who were not motivated by web traffic. When Waters first posted her account of working with Richardson to Reddit, there was nothing she was going to "get" out of that — no money, no fame, no praise. She had no way of knowing that her story would attract so much attention; now that she has come forward publicly, there is no indication that she's seeking to "leverage" her experience for personal gain.
Richardson's statement echoes a similar move recently made by Woody Allen, who responded to his 28-year-old daughter's public account of molestation with a letter in The New York Times, denying her claims.
Allen and Richardson are both powerful, talented men at the top of their creative fields; their professional visibility and the sexual elements in their work does make them easier targets for public outrage, but public outrage is a response to the allegations, but not what's driving them (or at least, not directly). There is a huge gulf in power between men like Allen and Richardson and the women who speak out against them; those who do are courageous. And although our justice system operates under the principle that people are innocent until they are proven guilty — as individuals, we don't have to give Richardson the benefit of the doubt.
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