Post Originally Published: March 15th, 2014

In Defense of Uncle Terry

I don’t think Terry Richardson is a predator.

I don’t understand daily digital media’s problem with Terry Richardson. I believe the man is an artist, and photography is his medium. His subject and his processes are his own. It’s not sick or disturbed for him to shoot in a room full of assistants and joke about topics he and his team enjoy. If Terry Richardson was coaxing women to his home for private sessions without signed releases, and forcing – and I mean forcing – himself on them, or forcing them to perform sexual acts on him that would be a serious problem worth scrutiny and the dissolution of his career. As far as the model accounts I’ve read on Jezebel he’s mainly suggested things that women were uncomfortable with – but ultimately wound up doing because they feared he would or could adversely affect their careers otherwise.

I think it’s interesting to note that these women acknowledged and to some extent respected Richardson’s position within their field, and chose to comply with his methodology. I think these models’ issues have less to do with the photographer’s style and more to do with a conflict between their personal ambition and the sexual essence of the industry they chose.

I feel it’s also necessary to mention that men like R. Kelly and Woody Allen have been accused of raping and molesting children (children – defenseless, naive, trusting children.) whereas Terry Richardson is being branded a perverted creep for provoking adult subjects to produce stimulating visuals exactly in step with the type of creative work upon which he’s built his name.

Terry Richardson works with adults.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that Terry Richardson only works with adult models, who are 18 years or older, and pose for him under professional terms. His work is well known to be of a sexual nature. Anyone who’s seen Richardson’s photos should be aware of the suggestive sexual undertones in the images. He neither denies the nature of his process, nor is he apologetic for his method. And I’ve got to respect that. I also feel it’s worth mentioning that Richardson hasn’t attempted to slander or shame any of his accusers in an effort to diminish their credibility.

His accusers might have felt guilty, or shameful, or disgusted by their experiences with him. I would never say that an individual’s feelings are wrong, because a person’s feelings are their own. And that’s just what these model’s regrets are – their’s. And their feelings regarding sexuality are not Terry’s fault.

People – not just women – who take issue with sexual deviance need to take deeper engagement in the social dialogue on Art and Sexuality. Instead of charging and condemning those brave enough to push boundaries, the people who have a problem with something need to explore why the things that make them uncomfortable have those effects. The answers are personal, but gathering 20,000 signatures for a petition that fashion and music publications stop working with Terry Richardson isn’t going to magically alleviate individual discomfort with bold sexual activity, expression, and imagery.

Society has conditioned itself into a state sexual paralysis.

We like it, we love it, we can’t get enough of it. At the same time it would seem many people can not yet, or do not want to, fully understand it’s range. As a result we seek to constrain it, haplessly attempting to define what is and isn’t acceptable. Art is not bound to definition, regardless of the human psychological need for clear lines. Art’s purpose is to examine, exposes, and express as much of the human experience as each artist is capable of, or willing to attempt. If Art makes people uncomfortable then it’s doing something right. Next to Politics, Sexuality is the best subject for Art.

Any social dialogue regarding art and sexuality in relation to predatory behavior and feminism must also take into account whether or not a “victim” was able to exit a situation wherein they felt uncomfortable.

If these women did not want to do the shoot they could have left. The societal pressures which I believe post modern feminism aims to dismantle – feelings of expected behavior, real or imagine coercion to maintain an ascribed beauty or usefulness, submission to the perceived more “powerful” sex – are not Terry Richardson‘s issues. Similarly, corruption and favoritism within the Fashion and Entertainment industries are not issues which concern members of these inner circles.

While I can certainly comprehend how and why these women might have felt degraded and victimized I don’t agree with bloggers’ indignation toward Richardson’s practices, quotes, or position within his industry. Besides, whenever Terry Richardson hangs it up Tyler Shields will be ready and waiting to pick it up again. All that aside, I would totally let Uncle Terry pull out my tampon. And then I’d tell him to put it in his mouth.