Why It's Not OK That Terry Richardson's Still Shooting Mainstream Magazine Covers

Terry Richardson returns to shooting magazine covers seemingly without answering or resolving accusations of sexual abuse.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

Maybe it's the fact that the style landscape changes roughly every six months, but the fashion community is relatively willing to forgive and forget. Just ask John Galliano, the designer whose career spiraled out of control following an anti-Semitic rant in Paris. Galliano, after spending nearly four years apologizing and rebuilding his image, returned to the spotlight with his appointment as creative director of newly renamed Maison Margiela (which just showed its Spring 2015 Couture line in London on Monday).

So how come Terry Richardson (the center of a sexual abuse scandal rivaled only by that of ousted American Apparel boss Dov Charney) is still shooting the covers of major magazines like Rolling Stone and Harper's Bazaar—with no apology or acknowledgement of the accusations?

Sure, "Uncle Terry" has plenty of celebrity friends to suggest that he's not that bad. One look at his personal website proves that he's close with recognizable faces like Miley Cyrus and Jared Leto, and still has the support of major models like Miranda Kerr and Kate Moss. But having celebrity friends with better reputations than his isn't enough to clean up his image overnight. Galliano had plenty of notable friends, too, receiving support from fellow designer Oscar de la Renta (R.I.P.) and the "boss of all bosses" Anna Wintour during and after his downfall. In a way, they're major factors in his public resurgence today at Margiela. Even still, Galliano had to wait his time, and earn his way back into the public's good graces.

The important thing to note is that while Galliano spent four years repenting for his words, Terry's spent only eight months out of the game before being handed prominent public work. There's no predetermined right amount of time for someone to sit out of the game after a major scandal, but as The New York Times noted in a recent article, it sure as hell feels like Terry got out on early parole.

Yes, Galliano was convicted and fined for his words, something that is far more serious than the mere accusations from models that have plagued Richardson since 2010. But just because the women haven't been able to testify in a court room yet doesn't make the accusations any less noteworthy or, more importantly, true. 

Yes, the man effectively became the face of a style of photography that is nothing short of commonplace today. The high exposure, direct flash shooting style isn't only copied, it's everywhere in the fashion world. Unfortunately, as we've seen with Bill Cosby, just because you contribute something positive to culture, doesn't mean accusations of sexual misconduct should be dismissed or ignored. Just because Terry Richardson has made some sexy photo shoots with a signature style, it doesn't mean that he should get a pass to sexually harass his subjects or be continually supported by the purveyors of fashion culture—the magazines.

While major magazines like VogueThe New York Times, and W Magazine have openly dismissed their connections with the photographer, other magazines already went back to hire Richardson for their February 2015 cover stories. Most notably, he's shot model Miranda Kerr for Harper's Bazaar, and Nicki Minaj for Rolling Stone. Those two covers could be considered his "reintroduction" back into the fashion circuit, something brands were scrambling to separate themselves from not even a year ago. Magazine covers are arranged months ahead of time, so essentially Terry barely spent a couple months (if that) out of the game before being invited back in for business as usual.

If we, as a whole, aren't saying that this behavior is foul and unworthy of continued support, then aren't we proving that calling someone out on their shit actually won't solve anything?

The important thing about apologies is not just saying you're sorry but acknowledging why you're apologizing in the first place. Considering that some in the magazine industry are so easily willing to forgive and forget, perhaps those who do wrong don't feel the need to admit anything in the first place. When Galliano spent four years out of the game, he paid his fine, apologized profusely, and ultimately came out of the dark to return on top again; his return seemed genuine. It doesn't dismiss his actions, which were definitely repugnant and awful, but those are things he'll still have to carry with him for the rest of his professional career. 

Without any statement of apology or remorse from Richardson, his return seems premature. It's one thing to apologize, take your lumps, and return a better man. It's another to ignore the problem and hope that your accusers are forgotten by the news cycle. With that in mind, even though Richardson may be coming back, it's hard to believe "Uncle Terry" is planning on changing his ways anytime soon.

Latest in Style