Why Were Elle and W Using Terry Richardson Again?


Earlier this week, the heads of Condé Nast’s various international brands were given a directive to cease working with notorious photographer Terry Richardson immediately and kill any unpublished projects he had shot. Soon after, several other publishers, like Porter and Hearst, also came forward and said they would no longer work with Richardson.

It was a bizarre parade, seeing as it came many years after harassment allegations against Richardson first surfaced. But, as a new story in the New York Times confirms, 2017 was actually a pretty good time to be Terry Richardson.

Despite the fact that Richardson was blacklisted by many magazines in 2014, when the allegations against him peaked, he had recently picked up many gigs with the international arms of popular fashion magazines. But it seems as though even the flagship American editions of some of those titles were warming up to him again. In fact, as the Times reports, Elle’s new editor, Nina Garcia, actually ended the magazine’s existing blacklist and commissioned him again for a 2018 cover:

When Roberta Myers was the editor of Elle (she recently stepped down), she had forbidden the magazine to work with Mr. Richardson, but after Nina Garcia was appointed as Elle’s new editor, he was commissioned to photograph the actress Zoë Kravitz for the January 2018 cover.
After The New York Times published its account detailing allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse, Joanna Coles, the chief content officer of Hearst, and Ms. Garcia decided to cancel the Elle cover photographed by Mr. Richardson and to reshoot it, a Hearst spokeswoman confirmed.

The article also notes that Richardson shot a story for W’s November issue—W is a Condé Nast property. From the Times:

A Condé Nast spokeswoman said that Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W, was not available for comment. But according to a person familiar with the shoot who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media, the magazine had decided it was time to give Mr. Richardson another chance. Editors were on set during the shoot and also handled the model casting.

We have reached out to Hearst and Condé Nast for comment and will update if we hear back.

It’s depressing that the unnecessary grandstanding behind the re-ousting of Richardson actually served a purpose and staved off his impending return for at least a little longer. But, just like Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, Terry Richardson isn’t the main problem here. He’s a symptom of a much broader, much more sinister issue in the fashion industry, where it almost seems like sexual harassment or even assault is considered an occupational hazard.

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