No stranger to controversy and downright creepiness, photographer Terry Richardson was in the sleaze-spotlight yet again recently when a handful of models had the balls to speak out against his predatory (at best) to nasty (don't ask) behavior, including solicitations for Sexy Time during shoots and waggling his monster member about while his assistants shot the un(der)-clothed model shooting him. (One of his fave stylists, a one-time "downtown darling" who shall remain unnamed - to protect the guilty - is even a former professional stripper...big surprise.) When other "unnamed" fashion editors and insiders were asked their opinion on Terry-gate, no one was the least shocked or surprised by the allegations.
...so this is why Terry Richardson gets so many Vogue assignments (Humor Chic by aleXsandro Palombo)
"As for mixing sex with business, I can't believe how unprofessional that is," opines Cyan Banister, CEO of Zivity.com, a site devoted to celebrating and rewarding models, real chicks, and photographers by giving them an outlet to publish their work and connect directly with fans (like a cross between American Idol, Playboy & HBO). "There's high turnover in the modeling industry and and in addition to a model's age, this [mixing sex and business] is one of the contributing factors. If you are an adult, then you have to make the decision to say no and walk away, but I do worry about mixing any sexual stuff with professional work because of model releases. Having a relationship with someone is one thing, but if you are showing up to a studio to be shot for portfolio work under release and then getting asked to do sexual acts, there's nothing preventing that photographer from taking your photo and using it later legally. It is pretty disgusting."
A key issue that potentially hurts models and helps the Terrys of the fashion world is the dreaded model release. "Often, models shoot work with photographers after they've signed away all of their legal rights. Photographers require this to protect themselves and their time, and it works if you aren't a slime ball, but it is super dangerous if you are working with someone like Terry. After that release is signed, he has the rights to anything he wants with the photo and can ask you to do anything in the shoot. I once shot with a photographer who walked in while I was on the toilet and took a photo of me. That photo was technically under release. I cringe thinking about that appearing in a magazine someday, but technically it could."
To give models more control over their image, Zivity controls the release of any photographs that appear on their site, requiring the photographer to sign a separate release to use the images anywhere else. They also give the model final say about which images can appear on the site, even under release. (Naturally photographers are the first to complain that the models make terrible editors.) "The laws around modeling aren't super clear to many models, young or otherwise," continues Banister. "As an industry, we need to do everything in our power to educate models on what their rights are, including when they should sign a release. They do have the ability to adapt it where they can refuse images they don't want seen. That's obviously incredibly difficult during a fashion shoot where the model is under contract, but cases like this [Terry] prove we should be fighting harder for models to have more control over the use of their image."
As long as teenagers rule the fashion-model foodchain, the tenuous Pretty Baby balance will remain, not the least of which is the issue that pretty teen girls are generally easily swayed by flattery and fun. "I've also shot with photographers where I was caught in the moment, having a lot of fun, and I didn't realize how far I went with my pictures. You don't really know until you see them and by then it is too late to reject anything. Most decent people would delete anything you didn't like, but when you are a famous photographer, what is your incentive to do so? What if your career takes off? That photo is in their archive forever and it is pure gold for them."
- Lesley Scott
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