Some photographers have reached a controversial status because of the sensitivity of their subject matter. Artists like Sally Mann have gone through intense media scrutiny for the nudity in their photographs, but after the initial uproar, most critics agree that their work bears immense artistic value. One contemporary photographer however has gained famed not just for his photographs, but also because of the way he makes them. That photographer is Terry Richardson. (WARNING: This post contains NUDITY).
Terry Richardson started photographing when he was in high school. Since then, he has photographed for different magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. His images have now been celebrated in his first exhibit entitled "TERRYWOOD".
Browsing through this post, you might notice what element makes Richardson's images so popular: raw sexuality. There are no hidden agendas or subliminal messages here, only in-your-face eroticism, plain and simple. Richardson is not shy about sexual photographic escapades and frequently updates his blog with outtakes from his latest (nude) photo shoot.
Richardson's style of photography is actually quite mundane; an on-camera direct flash lights up the subject against a bare white wall. This has the effect of making most of his shots look like test shots, but for those images that are published, they peel away any pretentiousness from the subject. Thus, celebrities and models alike are stripped bare and made to look ordinary.
The photographer's claim to fame (or more accurately, notoriety) isn't the camera equipment he uses, but the way he carries out his photo shoots; Richardson has been accused multiple times of being too sexually aggressive with younger female models on his set. One model describes that during a usual photo shoot with nude models, Richardson ..."touches you and he goes further and further. But you’re surrounded by his assistants and they are validating his actions."
Amidst the accusations of sexual harassment, some of Richardson's colleagues and model friends have defended his behavior. Some models say that Terry doesn't pressure you "... to do anything you're not comfortable with." Many celebrities have also explicitly chosen to work with Richardson, from Lady Gaga collaborating with the photographer for almost a year to produce their new photo book Lady Gaga x Terry Richardson, to model Kate Upton dancing in the viral Cat Daddy video under the photographer's direction.
For as long as photography exists, controversy will follow, but what defines a just photograph? Is the photographer just as accountable for his images as he is for his behavior creating those pictures? Or is the final product worth any and all kinds of behavior off-screen? What then defines a justifiable photograph and photographer? It seems like for as long as Richardson continues his career in the medium, these questions will hound him wherever he goes.
You can find more controversial photographs on Terry Richardson's website. His blog also has more nude images. If you want to go to the other side and read more about the scandal behind the photographer, read this Jezebel.com article. If you want published images, go for Lady Gaga x Terry Richardson, Terryworld (Taschen 25th Anniversary) and The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll.