I talked yesterday about NYMag’s sycophantic, pro-Terry Richardson article. The piece was titled, “Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?” The piece attempted to dig into Terry’s sordid past with a sympathetic viewpoint. Terry had a chaotic childhood, and he likes teddy bears. He’s an artiste. Therefore he should be allowed to do whatever he wants without question … because ART.
One of the models mentioned in the piece was Jamie Peck. NYMag tried to debunk her accusations against Terry by saying that she had two haircuts. Or something weird like that. It doesn’t make sense. The magazine tried to say Jamie was lying because she was photographed with Terry on two occasions … therefore she either gave consent or was lying.
Jamie is talking back. She’s now a writer for many outlets including the New York Observer, Village Voice, and MTV. Jamie asks whether NYMag title asks “a trick question,” and she has a point. NYMag acts like “artist” and “predator” are mutually exclusive terms. As if Terry can only be one or the other.
Jamie describes how the article’s journo, Ben Wallace, initially contacted her by sending Terry’s “sexually explicit photos” of her in an email. Jamie says these photos were of her engaging in “activity” with Terry, but she doesn’t remember everything that happened. If she was sexually traumatized, that would explain her fuzzy memory. Charlotte Waters described a similar experience with Terry. Here is an amazing comeback (part of it, anyway) from Jamie Peck:
From Roman Polanski to Woody Allen and thousands of “nice guys” in between, it should be obvious by now that artists and predators aren’t mutually exclusive. Sexual predators aren’t drooling monsters that hide in caves: they are husbands, fathers, employees, friends and, yes, sometimes artists. Why is this so hard for some people to understand?
In more than 7,000 words, the false dichotomy of the headline is never directly addressed — despite all the words the article spends illuminating Richardson’s glamorous-but-messed-up childhood, his nepotistic career arc and what various people think of his “provocative” work. Call me crazy, but allegations of sexual harassment and abuse are a little more important than what type of sandwich Uncle Terry likes to eat in the morning.
It treats the central question of Richardson’s many critics — Was meaningful consent given for the sex acts in these images? — in a cursory fashion, given that it’s the theme this major magazine article promises to explore. It isn’t as though the author lacked for material: Wallace and I spoke for over an hour, and the only quote he used from me was in regard to the aforementioned images. Stories from other people were treated similarly: brief points about their accusations accompanied by parenthetical denials from Richardson’s camp.
As someone morbidly interested in the psychology of criminals and sociopaths — as well as the banal ways abuse weaves itself into our lives from generation to generation — I’ll admit that I was able to dissociate myself enough to find the New York Magazine story an enthralling read in much the same way that I devoured the bookDevil in the White City or the killer Eliot Rodger’s lengthy manifesto. It offers detailed, socially-understandable explanations for Richardson’s behavior: his unconventional and even traumatic childhood; his lack of empathy; his seemingly limited understanding of how coercion works; and all the people who enabled him to continue to operate.
There’s even some mention of the power structures that keep Richardson insulated from the consequences of his actions, including the fact that agents send models to him and they feel, in the model Sarah Ziff’s words, “pressured to comply because my agent had told me to make a good impression.” Even the moments of clarity about the exploitative nature of the system in which Richardson has operated are surrounded by quotes from his “yes men” and women sounding as defensive and delusional as you’d expect.
After reading more about Uncle Terry’s f—ed-up childhood, I have to wonder: is the more important question How did he get this way?, or rather How do we stop him? Or is the real question even more complex: What does this say about the fashion industry as a whole that so many people have let him and other, sneakier people get away with this for so long? Would we really be having this conversation if Uncle Terry were just another abusive uncle and/or a member of the economic underclass? Or, conversely, if he were the CEO of a corporation using his position to get b—jobs from employees?
[From The Guardian]
Now that’s more like it. The NYMag piece provided so many excuses for Terry to act like a predator. He’s an “artist” and a provocateur, and some magazines like his work … so everyone should just step off, right? Nope. I don’t feel sorry for Terry at all. He has made millions from his shady work, and he’s selling us some sob story about how the internet is just picking on him.
Here’s a recent photo of Jamie Peck modelling for 1aeon t-shirts.
Photos courtesy of WENN, NYPag & Jamie Elizabeth Peck on Twitter