Yesterday, The Business Model published an opinion piece that explores the decision to shoot nudity (read here). As we hope was made clear in that piece, we respect the choice to shoot nudity. There is nothing shameful about a nude body, and some of the most insightful works of art explore the naked, human form.
But nudity is not inherently art. What we do not in any way condone is the exploitation of models by industry professionals, which is perhaps the most grave effect of this under-regulated industry.
Unfortunately, this is the experience for many models. Fortunately, the media and the industry has started to pay attention.
The Model Alliance has been a pioneering force in New York state. The organization’s tireless efforts have not only brought tangible, legal changes to modelling work, they are forcing the modelling and fashion industries to acknowledge that the workers that perform modelling work are, in fact, workers.
Furthermore, global media continues to report on the allegations of sexual harassment surrounding photographer Terry Richardson. The allegations are many, and while no charges have been laid, respected individuals in the industry (namely, Sara Ziff) have spoken out in support of Richardson’s alleged targets, and a growing list of companies have publicly declined to work with Richardson.
In an excellent piece for Grantland, Molly Lambert examines the intersections of 2000’s macho culture, photographer Terry Richardson, and freshly-fired American Apparel founder Dov Charney. Here are our highlights:
Whatever your opinion is of Richardson’s brightly exposed white-wall portraits, sometimes explicit personal work, and provocative fashion photography should be irrelevant to the question of whether he should continue to be hired. If Richardson touches and molests models without their consent, as multiple accounts accounts in specific, extremely similar detail allege, there’s no excuse for his ongoing high status in the photography world. Richardson never flat-out denies the allegations in the profile, but he evades taking responsibility and shrugs off any collateral damage.
It was very smart and also very cynical, co-opting the third-wave feminist idea that women have the right to display their own bodies and profit off of them while downplaying the reality that the person really getting rich off these images and the clothes they sold was Dov Charney. AA models were only superficially diverse, culled from retail stores around the world. The advertisements presented a never-ending chorus line of fresh-faced young international ingenues, an indie-styled version of fellow 2000s phenomenon Girls Gone Wild.
It’s not that I don’t want to see a blow job. It’s that I don’t want to see Terry Richardson getting a blow job. I don’t really want to watch Ron Jeremy get blow jobs either, but at least I know that everyone Ron Jeremy works with signed a consent form and knows exactly what they’re in for. Terry’s supporters would argue that anyone working with Terry should also know exactly what they’re in for, which is kind of Terry’s argument, too. This is contradicted by the fact that he specifically targets young models whose agencies would consider working with Richardson a big opportunity, putting them under pressure to have a successful shoot, only to find out that Terry’s definition of “successful” might not overlap with “professional.” After all, no matter how pornographic the shoot, Terry is not a pornographer. He’s a fashion photographer posing as an art photographer, and it is never appropriate for the person in a power position to initiate sexual contact with a less powerful person without the less powerful person’s consent. There is no correlation between a model choosing to take naked photos and her sexual availability, and most photographers manage to take pictures of naked women without raping them.