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Is NY Mag's Profile of Terry Richardson Fair Journalism or a Disgusting Fluff Piece? (Hint, It's the Latter)

By Corey Atad | Think Pieces | June 16, 2014 | Comments ()


terry richardson.jpg

New York Magazine published a repugnant fluff piece about photographer Terry Richardson today. I feel bad about doing this, but here’s a link to it. Read it at your own peril. You’ll be forgiven for vomiting your way through it.

In truth, the allegations against Richardson of sexual coercion and rape haven’t been proven, but the writer’s approach to those allegations is misguided at best, and completely irresponsible at worst. Take this bit from the profile:

As Richardson’s career accelerated, his personal work became more intensely sexual. He now routinely took off his own clothes during shoots, which he explained as simply a gambit to make models comfortable posing naked. In what he would later describe as both a replacement for the substances he’d forsworn and a catharsis of his “issues,” he increasingly photographed himself, or was photographed by his assistants, in a multitude of explicit scenarios. “Doing that nude work and taking his own clothes off is how he got over his own shyness,” says Dian Hanson. “And he’s got a big dick. And once the world notices that, it’s kind of encouraging to continue taking your clothes off.

Right. That’s totally reasonable, and not at all a method of coercion by a man in a position of power and authority. Paragraphs like that litter the article, which disgustingly sidesteps the seriousness of the allegations against Richardson.

Worst still is the positioning of the article. Most of the piece is a profile of Richardson’s life (spoiler alert: it’s weird), but the headline reads: ‘Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?’ A headline like that simplifies the issue, presents it as an either/or situation, and creates a false equivalence between his work and the crimes he’s accused of committing. If the piece actually took the time to confront that question, maybe it would sound less gross, but it doesn’t, and yes, it’s just as gross as it sounds.

How gross? Well let’s imagine, for fun, that the same kind of fluff pieces with similar headlines were written about some notorious (and way worse) figures from history.

‘Is Ted Bundy a Law Student or a Mass Murderer?’

‘Edward VIII: Prince of Wales or Nazi Sympathizer?’

‘Is Al Capone a Loving Father or a Ruthless, Violent Mobster?’

‘Charles Manson: Family Man or Murderous Cult Leader?’

‘Is Maximilien Robespierre a Revolutionary or a Terrifying Madman?’

‘Emperor Nero: Fiddler or Genocidal Lunatic?’

‘Is Attila the Hun a Nomad or a Cannibal?’

‘Vlad Dracula: Impresario or Impaler?’

Okay, Terry Richardson isn’t a mass murderer or a Nazi (at least not that I know of), but the point stands. This isn’t an either/or matter, and articles like ‘Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?’ in New York Magazine perpetuate a world in which rape and sexual assault are treated as something akin to a character flaw. When people talk about Rape Culture, it’s exactly that kind of article they’re referring to. If Richardson is a sexual predator — and by many accounts he very much is — then it doesn’t matter one iota whether he’s a great photographer or has had a hard life. In an article dealing with the allegations against him, those “facts” are completely outweighed and essentially irrelevant. Presenting them on equal footing is morally bankrupt, and the editors at New York Magazine should be ashamed of themselves for running the article.

You can follow Corey Atad on Twitter, or listen to his Mad Men podcast, Not Great, Pod!




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • What the actual fuck is a "friendly muttonchop"? Could you be a little less obvious with the fact that you're about to give a notorious creep a tongue bath? No, we don't want to see the pictures.

  • Uriah_Creep

    And he’s got a big dick.

    That's better.

  • Every time this sleazy dickhead's sweaty mug appears on my computer screen I feel the need to strip down naked and have an ethanol rub down while simultaneously sobbing and apologising to the women of the world on behalf of my entire gender, that it could produce such a thing as this grease-stain of a 'man'. Piss off, Richardson, you dirty fuckpig, and don't let the glory-holed door hit you on your way out.

  • _Alexander_

    When will some coked up model finally bites through his throat already?

  • wonkeythemonkey

    Nah, I think I'll skip this article. I'll wait for the upcoming "Is Woody Allen an Alien or a Predator?"

  • denesteak

    He's not a great photographer. He's a one-trick pony that any amateur can emulate.

    Not that that makes it ok... But it does continue to mystify me as to why otherwise credible fashion magazines -- who use amazing fashion photographers on the regular -- still continue to hire him.

  • e jerry powell

    Nan Goldin!

  • Arran

    Give me a bright light and an iPhone and I could do a Terry Richardson picture for you. And I'm a terrible photographer.

  • Todd Sikkema

    What's with all the thumb's up pics today, Pajiba? Arrrgghhhhh!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    AAAAAGH wtf. Don't read that article if you don't want bad bad images stuck in your head.

    Aside from that...there's Terry's artwork, and then there's commercial work. And I think that it's wrong to expect commercial artists (models) to be willing to get risque with you unless that it explicitly spelled out up front. For his artwork, which by description is not my cup of tea in any way shape or form, there's a different scenario in play. But there need to be clear lines.

  • Cheetahdriver

    Agreed 100%. If I as a publisher sent a professional model over there to be photographed and something untoward happened there would be no hole deep enough for him to hide in. I would take him down not only because of the affront to me and my publication, but also because every model in existence would know afterward that working for me meant not having to play that way. If, on the other hand, a model who is over 18 (able to vote for President or go to war) comes to him wanting to be in his art to further her career...that's her choice.

  • Because I'm sure young, impressionable, entirely-dependent-on-you-for-their-careers models just feel at ease when you get naked and show them your dick. Amirite?

    If anything, it just shows how the inner workings of the NY media/fashion scene work: once you're one of the in-crowd, it takes something akin to mass murder to get you out of their good graces. Maybe. We hope.

  • Bert_McGurt

    "Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?"

    Posed as a Boolean argument, the answer is inescapably True.

  • foolsage

    I think "yes" scans better in context. It's the same answer, slightly rephrased.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    “And he’s got a big dick. And once the world notices that, it’s kind of encouraging to continue taking your clothes off."

    Matthew Weiner's pleas to Jon Hamm about doing more nude scenes continued to fall on deaf ears.

  • FrayedMachine

    I'm just going to take this as a sign that they're clearly running out of actual interesting things to write about. It's appalling how easy it is for people in this society to belittle things like sexual assault, ugh

  • e jerry powell

    In that, you're not wrong.

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