Terry Richardson is back on the cover of Rolling Stone with a photo of Kim Kardashian-West — a suggestion the backlash against the controversial photographer may be nearing its end.
Richardson's last American magazine cover was the March 2015 cover of PAPER — a photo of Marilyn Manson in Mickey Mouse ears. He also shot the February 2015 covers of Harper's Bazaar and Rolling Stone. But before that, it had been eight months since his instantly recognizable flash-saturated work appeared on the cover of a magazine — an exile that began in the summer of 2014, after new accusations of sexual abuse led to the most intense backlash of Richardson's controversial career.
Rolling Stone declined to comment on the decision to hire Richardson again, as it did in February. A spokeswoman for Richardson did not respond to BuzzFeed News' inquiry. Neither did a representative for Kim Kardashian, who has shot with Richardson before, in 2010 and in 2013. In the cover story, Kardashian notably tells writer Vanessa Grigoriadis, "I think you would call me a feminist."
More than a dozen women — many anonymous — have accused Richardson of inappropriate behavior during photo shoots. Richardson has never been charged with a crime and has consistently denied any wrongdoing. The allegations have ranged from supermodel Coco Rocha saying "I've shot with [Terry Richardson], but I didn't feel comfortable and I won't do it again," to a former art student writing graphically about how Richardson "groped her and defiled her face."
Though these stories began circulating 2010, it wasn't until a swell of new allegations emerged in early 2014 that magazines and brands including Vogue, W, and Target publicly distanced themselves from Richardson. After a June 2014 New York magazine cover story on Richardson — and the ensuing backlash over the story — even more companies dropped the photographer. Last month, a member of Pussy Riot publicly apologized after posing for Richardson saying she had been unaware of the allegations.
After Richardson's tentative return to magazine covers in February, the New York Times' fashion critic Vanessa Friedman wrote that "fashion is an industry whose whole identity is based on catering to women and making them feel better about themselves … Celebrating someone who has been accused of doing the exact opposite risks undermining the very point of the discipline."
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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