Fashion Photography Legends Mario Testino And Bruce Weber Accused Of Decades-Spanning Sexual Assault
It's happening in Hollywood, and now it's happening in the fashion industry.
Legendary fashion photograpphers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber have been accused by at least 25 male models and assistants about their patterns of coercive sexual assault and harassment. Major fashion brands like Gucci, Burberry, and Michael Kors have announced a "reconsideration" of their relationships with these men, while Vogue and GQ under Conde Nast publishing with art director Anna Wintour have immediately severed their ties with them for the "foreseeable future."
The expose comes as a major shock to industry outsiders, especially because of the photographers' most well-known work of late. Testino photographed Madonna's first daughter's baby pictures for Vanity Fair, was the man behind Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement photos, and is the man behind Vogue's February cover of Serena Williams and her daughter. Weber, on the other hand, helped create Calvin Klein's signature look of models oozing with seduction and provocativeness, and has photographed the likes of Richard Gere, Kirsten Dunst, Johnny Depp, Sir Ian McKellen, and Angelina Jolie. But unlike strangers to the fashion industry, people who have been exposed to these men have attested that their accusers' claims are not unfounded.
On Saturday I was in disbelief as I read The New York Times article accusing #MarioTestino and #BruceWeber as serial sexual assaulters. I was in disbelief not that two prominent figures in the industry had committed such crimes, but that the truth was being made widely public. As many of us know, fashion’s darkest #secrets are often unimaginably well kept . I waited for the news to reach the #industry through #socialmedia but there seems to be radio silence in the #fashion industry’s social media sphere. As far as I know, @bof was the only industry publication to announce the #breakingnews on @Instagram, fashion’s favorite social platform. And a quick scroll though the likes and comments shows that not a single verified #brand or industry figure engaged with the post . So, the #TimesUp movement has reached the fashion industry. Giants, #CondéNast And #lvmh have responded with a show of certain force but was it enough to #empower the many echelons of the industry to raise their voices? Will the fashion’s world of power players speak out publicly in the coming week? Or will they let the #statusquo silently defeat a fragile #coup that may not stand a chance of enduring without public #outcry from industry insiders . Let me know ? Has anyone seen posts about the Testino/Weber news on the IG’s of any brands, #editors, prominent #models, magazines, etc.? Maybe I’m missing some insight! Thoughts?
Chillingly, the stories behind these claims took place all the way back to the 90s, and it's taken a good three decades, almost, for the issue to surface.
While the allegations against the 63-year-old Mario Testino and 71-year-old Bruce Weber mirror the accusasations made against powerful men in Hollywood, the main difference is that this time, they're coming from men. Male models, who were as young as 18 years old when they first worked with Testino and Weber, have come forward with how they were made to believe that over-sexualizing themselves, performing sexual favors, and staying silent about what went on behind closed doors were the only ways to get their careers to move forward.
Stories of being groped and molested during shoots with other people in the room or in private spaces, hotel rooms, or closed-door shoots were common. Models were also being asked to pose nude in sexually suggestive positions, touch their genitals, and stimulate themselves as a way to "prepare" for a photo shoot, or touch the accused photographers in the same manner with or without an audience and even have them watch as the photographers pleasure themselves. Appaling to most people now, at the time, there was no one to tell these models that this was an unacceptable behavior. Their mindset often told them to deal with it, as they had already gotten that far in the process and it just wouldn't be worth it to back out at that point.
Their bold stories that were first published in The New York Times have spurred the #MenToo movement and
hashtag. It's a powerful, revolutionary thing that's unfolding as men—especially young, heterosexual men—were once viewed as untouchable and the least susceptible to this kind of abuse. Previously thought of as an issue unique to women, it turns out that this problem makes men just as vulnerable and in need of protection.
It's a reminder of something that we, as people of this world, have seemed to forget about: respect, all kinds of
it, must be accorded to each and every person in every way, every context, and every time—zero
To grasp the gravity of the abuse and harassment these brave men have endured over the years—as well as the lasting effects their terrible expriences had on them—carefully read some of their statements below that they've shared with the world, in the hope that the fashion industry becomes more accountable, responsible, and intolerant of all abusers.
“Models are not educated about what is or is not acceptable behavior, and often don’t even have the vocabulary to express their experiences."
- Edward Siddons, model turned journalist
"The models that got jobs are the ones stylists and photographers are into. I also wanted people to like me, especially the most powerful people in the business. I would almost get offended if they didn’t want to have sex with me. That’s how I got groomed. That’s how it worked in my mind.”
- Taber, model
"So what’s really happening is that these guys are gauging whether you’re open or shy or close-minded or, quite frankly, whether you’re gay or hetero and willing either to flirt with them or to submit to an advance.”
- Jason Fedele, model
“I remember him putting his fingers in my mouth, and him grabbing my privates."
- Robyn Sinclair, model
“He shuts the door and locks it. Then [Mario] crawls on the bed, climbs on top of me and says, ‘I’m the girl, you’re the boy.’ I went at him, like, you better get away. I threw the towel on him, put my clothes on and walked out."
- Ryan Locke, model
"[Mario] misbehaved in hotel rooms, the backs of cars and on first-class flights... Then things would go back to
normal, and that made you feel gaslighted.”
- Roman Barrett, an assistant to Testino
“If you said you were not going to work with someone like Bruce Weber or Mario Testino, you might as well just pack it in and go work in another industry.”
- Gene Kogan, modeling agency staff member