Make love to the camera!

I was doing some general Facestalking a couple of days ago and came across this inspiring video in the Newsfeed. It’s 17 minutes long, but if you like fashion photography…and naked supermodels, then definitely check it out:

Here’s one of the shots from the 2010 Pirelli Calendar…one of the only 2 that actually has tyres in it, in case you were wondering what Pirelli actually sell!

Click here to see full Pirelli Calendar.

It’s interesting to see that there are three aussies in this calendar, one of whom I spied years ago at the Cox Plate when she was being heralded as the Next Big Thing. Abbey Lee Kershaw certainly stood out, tall, lanky and dolled-up, but blended into the bogan crowds of footy-head mates around her, all drinking Carlton Draught from plastic cups at the trashy main bar at Moonee Valley – she was striking, in a weird sort of way, but the bogan strine sort of killed it for me and it was impossible to imagine that she would one day become the face of Chanel.

Back to my interest in fashion photography. A few years ago, when I was just forming the thought in my mind to try to make a living from snowboard photography I was killing time in Paris at the Virgin Megastore underneath the Louvre and came across a photography book called TerryWorld emblazoned with a weird-looking bespectacled and tatooed naked dude lying across its cover. I had no idea who this guy was, but was blown away by the crazy life he tried to capture in his book: lots of naked (male and female) models and pornstars…and unfortunately, lots of photos of him naked too. I couldn’t believe this freak was a fashion photographer. Intrigued, I wanted to find out more about Terry Richardson.

Like what Helmut Newton started doing in the 60’s and 70’s, Richardson really pushes the boundaries of what is considered art and what is considered pornography, while still managing to sell clothes and luxury products. But whereas Newton took on a more Hugh Hefner/Monaco aesthetic, Richardson is all about Hustler/Vice Magazine-style trash. I guess from a photography point of view, they are not technically amazingly constructed photos, but I think it’s his ability to capture a moment of the model’s spontaneity, and bring a huge amount of sexiness to help sell a product which sets him apart from the rest. He has an amazing ability to get his models to throw aside their inhibitions in front of the camera, even getting a New York Magazine reporter to do so while she was doing an article about him. Read it here and here.

What I like about Richardson’s work (besides all the naked girls) is the simplicity of his photos. Whilst fashion photographers (and snowboard photogs too) get more and more complicated with elaborate lighting setups, Richardson “keeps it real” and spontaneous, letting the model show some life and character. He was known for just using simple instamatic film cameras to take all his shots, and so for me it was interesting to see in the Pirelli video that he had a phanlanx of assistants around him, yet still only used a simple Nikon DSLR with either a hotshoe-mounted flash, or the flash jig-mounted close to the lens to replicate the look of his old instamatics. 

To see more of Terry Richardson’s commercial and editorial work check out this site. (Mario Testino is another worth checking out on the ArtPartner page.)

Some of the influence Richardson has can be seen in the blatant style rip-off by American Apparel’s ads. Check out the rest of that crappy brand here.

On my last trip to New York before this year (I think back in 2007) I actually saw Terry Richardson walking his dog and chatting to locals out the front of the Starbucks in SoHo. I had one of those “star-dazzled” moments – I wanted to go and chat to him, but had no idea what to say without sounding like a dork.

 While on the topic of fashion photography, check out this scene with the supermodel Veruschka from Michaelangelo Antonioni’s epic movie about the Swinging 60’s in London, Blow Up. I guess even back in 1966 photographers were asking the models to make love to the camera…

But maybe Richardson has been taking this all too far, as a month ago a series of models came out and accused Richardson of sexually harassing them and pressuring them into performing various sex acts while on photo shoots and surrounded by assistants. I know that Richardson will often get nude himself and give the camera to the model to shoot him nude in order to lighten the atmosphere, but it’s a bit like sexual harassment in the workplace, or the old Hollywood casting couch. While some may argue it comes with the territory of nudity and cameras, or it’s just the way Richardson works, clearly some models feel pressured to do whatever he says because of his importance within the fashion industry, much like a secretary might feel obliged to sleep with the boss to get a promotion out of the typing pool, a la Mad Men. That sort of stuff went out with the 80’s.

So there’s a big of a debate going on now as to whether Richardson has either broken the law, merely done something wrong, or done nothing wrong at all and everyone has just always known he is pretty creepy. But no matter the actual outcome, I’ve lost a fair bit of respect for him.

Check out some articles and blogs (with comments by those affected) here and here.

Maybe Richardson had been influenced too much by this other scene from Blow Up ? (Just to set up what happens here, the wannabe models are hassling David Hemmings to be let into his studio and they force their way through the door – you can watch what happens next – then afterwards he kicks them out, and when they ask about getting their photos taken, he says “Come back tomorrow. Maybe.” – What a Classic!)

But getting back to Richardson, maybe it’s as my bogan mate Abbey Lee says: “Terry doesn’t force girls to do anything they don’t want to. He puts you in a G-string in a pile of mud because you want to do it. You touch yourself because you want to. For me, that shoot (for Purple Magazine) was the truth about how things were between us both, and I felt good doing it. I’m not ashamed of it — why should I be?”

And on that note…“Look! I’m not even shooting you. It’s crazy…And I’m spent.”