Terry Richardson: Fashion's Favorite 'Perverted' Photographer?

By Dalila-Johari Paul

Fashion photographer Terry Richardson likes to be called "Uncle Terry," but some prefer to call him a pervert. There's even a petition on Change.org calling for magazines and brands to stop employing the 48-year-old.

Earlier this month, a former model (who remains anonymous) accused him of sexual assault, but the accusations  and controversy over Richardson's behavior are nothing new.

In 2010, Danish supermodel Rie Rasmussen called Richardson a coward and confronted him in Paris, accusing him of abusing his position of power within the industry to sexually harass young women.

Also in 2010, Jamie Peck wrote of an experience she had on a shoot with Richardson from as far back as 2004.

In November 2012, Bruce Willis’s and Demi Moore’s daughter, Scout, tweeted, "Last night, Terry Richardson tried to finger me. I didn’t let him, obviously. But I did let him photograph me topless in the bathroom."

Some may ignore or dismiss it as quirky behavior, but more people are calling out the A-List photographer.

According to the New York Post, Richardson is the first photographer of his stature to be the target of an online petition on Change.org: "Vogue, H&M, Mango, Supreme, and all other brands: Sto­p using alleged sex offender Terry Richardson as your photographer."

The petition is the creation of London-based consumer Alice Louise. As of March 19, her petition has garnered more than 30,000 signatures.

"You start to question why you see this man everywhere when allegations still exist, and his hardcore pornographic pictures featuring himself, which simulate rape, gagging, and choking, are still floating around the Internet," Louise tells the Post. "Potential sexual predators should not be praised in the fashion industry."

He has photographed celebrities that include Madonna, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé, and he directed Miley Cyrus’s controversial video for "Wrecking Ball." Flip through any popular magazine and look at a multi-million brand, and you'll see his work. You might also see this on city sidewalk near you.

Photo: Sean Ganann via Creative Commons/Flickr(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) circa 2010

But seriously,  "Uncle Terry's" choice of "fun" is pretty odd. He's depicted himself copulating with a sheep and even embarked on a project called "Breaking in the Carpet," photographing himself ejaculating on rugs in random hotel rooms. Gross, and it gets worse.

Apparently, he has assistants who don't bother to question their boss's behavior. According to Vocativ, his equally pervy "assistant"  has been identified as stylist Leslie Lessin, whose work can be found in Harper’s Bazaar and international fashion campaigns, and is the woman behind the scenes. "He also had these two male assistants there," one of the models recalled. "But I remember Lessin as being very gung ho about everything. She was encouraging me the whole way, like 'Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this cool? Everything is A-OK.'"

Several days ago, Richardson defended the accusations in a post for the Huffington Post:

Over the course of my career, I have come to accept that some of my more provocative work courts controversy, and as an artist, I value the discourse that arises from this. I can only hope for this discourse to be informed by fact, so that whether you love my work or hate it, you give it, and me, the benefit of the truth.

We all deserve a chance to defend ourselves, but in the court of social media and media judgment, what do you think? A. Pervert  B. Artist or C. Perverted Artist.

Photo: InsoDay Le Top des News Insolites via Creative Commons/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)