Fashion Brands Cut Ties With Photographers Accused of Misconduct

Fashion Brands Cut Ties With Photographers Accused of Misconduct

A report by The Boston Globe adds more prominent photographers to the list of those accused of sexual misconduct. Princess Diana's personal photographer and two Victoria's Secret photographers are among the newly named.

The models who have come forward share graphic stories of abuse and misconduct both on set and off. Their allegations deepen the narrative of the industry elite using their power and promises of career advancement to take advantage of aspiring models, some as young as 15 years old.

Patrick Demarchelier, once the personal photographer to Princess Diana and now an industry powerhouse, denies the claims against him. "It's ridiculous," he said. Conde Nast decided in December to stop commissioning new work from Demarchelier.

Former Victoria's Secret photographer David Bellemere said he's "never done anything like this in [his] life". The lingerie brand cut their ties with Bellemere in the fall of 2016 after some of their "Angels" complained about inappropriate touching and kissing. A spokeswoman for fashion brand Lord & Taylor also acknowledges that they have been made aware of the photographer's behavior. The brand has not hired Bellemere since early 2016. 

Victoria's Secret has also suspended its relationship with photographer Greg Kadel, and is conducting a third-party investigation of the allegations against him. An agent for Kadel, Ernesto Qualizza, says Kadel has "never used his power in any way that is unbecoming."  Several models say otherwise.

The full report by the Spotlight Team at the Boston Globe is a disturbing look into a glamorous industry.

Lead image by WestportWiki, used under Creative Commons.

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37 Comments

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

Terrible. I hope they are stopped.

I also wonder where the guardians of the children are. I wondered if they bothered to care what the son/daughter was getting into. They couldn't be on the sets? I know you can't protect them forever but at 16?

Aaron Patton's picture

I've known a few models that have moved/traveled overseas for work as minors, and it's not always feasible for parents to accompany. Their agents should be taking better care of them; that's where the parents have put their trust. It truly is terrible, and I hope these changes are more than symbolic!

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

"Their agents should be taking better care of them; that's where the parents have put their trust." Ah that makes more sense to me now.

Pablo Hill's picture

I hear you, BUT that doesn’t give you the right to hit on a 15 year old girl

Konrad Sarnowski's picture

The (not)funny thing is those are accusations - no proof, no trials, no sentences - I believed we live in civilised societies... I've seen and heard enough in my life to not believe half of those stories and unfortunately believe the other half.

Aaron Patton's picture

The difference with this article is that The Globe did verify several of the models’ stories. I agree with you, though, that accusations are enough to do damage whether they’re true or not. False allegations not only incriminate the innocent, but also derail the cause itself.

When major brands do their own investigations (as with Bellemere and now with Kadel) or when certain behavior is widely known and allowed to happen for too long, it’s good to see action finally being taken.

At least these large brands have the ability to do those investigations. Several local models I know can’t get anyone to believe them, and photographers of ill repute continue doing the exact things mentioned in the Globe’s article.

Konrad Sarnowski's picture

Yes, there is a lot of unacceptable stuff not only in "the industry", but also on smaller scale... and on both sides. I know some photogs, who record voice in the studio "just in case" (as it is allowed by law in Poland).

dale clark's picture

I'm really glad all this is coming to light. Photographers, athletic trainers, actors, politicians.......etc.....pigs in every occupation. There are too many talented people who work hard, act appropriately and professionally to keep allowing the creeps to have any influence.

I am relieved Russell James is not on this list.

Aaron Patton's picture

I sent him an Instagram message for his comments, but haven't heard anything back (not that I expect to). I have a ton of respect for that guy, so I share your relief, for sure!

stir photos's picture

Part of me wouldn't be surprised, but he seems like a stand-up guy. Interestingly, he deemed that behavior of photographers bad behavior (and even dating them) towards models as "cliche". I wasn't (still not) clear if that meant his perceived perception of what those outside the agency thought or if he knew something (again) others outside the industry didn't.

Leigh Miller's picture

Here we go...the witch hunt begins.

Sometime in the near future we will wish for due process again.

Don't get me wrong, these companies should suspend business with the photographers...but only until the claims are investigated and a positive conclusion is reached.

Aaron Patton's picture

I hope that brands will engage in due process, and I hope that brands will stand behind their photographers if the allegations are untrue. I don't think I'd call it a "witch hunt", though. It's no secret that the fashion industry has been full of this kind of behavior for a long, long time.

colin murray's picture

This is easy to avoid. I shoot commercial lingerie and fashion and I have a protocol I follow EVERY time:

1) When casting be clear to the model what you are going to ask her to do. Every shoot I do I send out a mood board with the kinds of images and examples. If the model isn't happy with doing them don't hire them.
2) Speaking of hiring, we ALWAYS pay the models. There is no place for "You are getting this for nothing, the least you can do is take your top off"
2) Shoot the mood board, don't spring any surprises on the model.
3) I never shoot anyone underage in lingerie, NEVER. If it's a fashion shoot with younger models, I insist on a parent of guardian to either be present or SIGN the mood board and the model release.
4) My stylist contacts the model before the shoot to make sure all is clear with what we are doing.
5) My team in the studio in myself, my assistant (female), my stylist (female) and the MUA (usually ,but not always female) I'm never alone with any female model.
6) Any adjustments to model's clothing or make-up is done by the stylists on my direction. I NEVER, NEVER touch the models
7) If the model says no, it's no, even if she agree to a mood board. If on the day she doesn't want to do a shot we agreed, I don't argue, sometime the stylist will ask them what's wrong, but at the end of the day I do something else.
8) The models see the results before they leave and if they are uncomfortable with a shot, we sometime will shoot something we didn't intend to, maybe something was showing that shouldn't be, we delete the shot and move on.

All the models we have shot, all want to come back, they tell us they really enjoyed the shoot and we heard them say they felt safe and comfortable shooting with me. There are other good guys out there, we need to name and shame the sleaze balls, after all I have yet to see a threatened and frightened model do a great job, so it's not in the name of "great photos" it's just a sleaze abusing a position of power to exploit someone, let's all work to cut out this crap....

Tomash Masojc's picture

Your protocol is good and it's nice that you do like this. But there always can be model or a moment of misunderstanding. Fox example something happened, your one light fall or something, and in the emotions you said something harsher to the model. Or you wanted to fix models hair and forgot to ask can you touch her....and she can feel embarrassed or something, we are humans and sometimes we can be very strange :))

Ben Whitmore's picture

Seems really easy for the brands to distance themselves from these allegations, like by simply not commissioning work rids them of any involvement. Did they not have art directors or staff on set during these shoots? Did they not provide provocative and sexualised briefs to the shooters thus creating a sexually charged environment? There's no excuses IF these allegations are in fact true, but surely these factors must come into play, especially where Conde Nast titles come into play.

I still question whether any photographer (male or female) could deliver on a sexualised and provocative editorial brief without crossing any lines.

Aaron Patton's picture

My wife's been a boudoir photographer for 7 years. I shot boudoir for a few years and have since shot plenty of lingerie/nude work with varying degrees of sexualized content. It's not hard to deliver that kind of work without crossing any lines. Pretty simple, really.

Tomash Masojc's picture

Not really, there is a big difference in just boudoir and boudoir or nude with emotions. To gain emotions you need to talk with model, gain that emotions and so on. Model can misunderstood you and thought you are flirting and your behavior is inappropriate :) easy

Aaron Patton's picture

If you can’t direct emotion without coming across as flirtatious, you’re doing it wrong.

Tomash Masojc's picture

Who told that? Or it's just your point of view? :) see...it's art.nobody knows how it must be, it\s not a mathematics :)

Wayne Denny's picture

"Simple solution. Men don't photograph women anymore." Well, I can see you definitely put a lot of thought into that. The simple solution for these guys is actually to not be an asshole, and instead, be a professional. There's hundreds of thousands of professional photographers out there not being accused of anything, choosing to go about doing their job. It seems like they've found a 'simple solution' to continuing on with the career they love, without resorting to something as moronic as not working with the majority of the models out there just because they happen to be women.

If they're truly terrified of being caught up in a 'witch hunt', maybe they should rethink how they're interacting with their models. I can assure you that true professionals don't give something like this a second thought...

Aaron Patton's picture

By this logic, men just can't be photographers anymore. It's not only women who are coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by male photographers.

Aaron Patton's picture

Just following you down your own rabbit hole, Bob.

Michael Holst's picture

Why can't we have both scenarios? I don't see any reason why we can't have both.

Michael Holst's picture

You missed the point.

I wonder why the allegations have only been released now or that lately there are so many allegations towards these famous people. I agree with Liam Neeson to a certain degree that there is some sort of a witch hunt here where some people take this situation where actual cases of sexual harassment has occurred and turned it into something to their advantage. I wouldn't be surprised if later on we hear allegations towards photographers like Leibovitz or Testino. Imagine how much work will be available once these campaigns start to refuse commissioning work from these top tier photographers.

Aaron Patton's picture

Mario Testino has been the subject of some allegations already: https://fstoppers.com/fashion/leading-publications-sever-ties-bruce-webe...

The "why now" question isn't all that difficult. The #metoo movement and all the blow-up around Harvey Weinstein has enabled women (and men) to come forward with less fear of career-ending repercussions. The irony is not lost on me that there are those who will take advantage of that movement and falsely accuse others. But for those whose stories are real, it wasn't always possible to speak up.

I don't want to lose sight of the fact that while it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to be falsely accused, the things that have happened to these models are also absolutely unacceptable and should be brought to light. I hope the victims of both wrongs will see the justice they deserve.

Ex. Miley Cirus & Annie Leibovitz case. Leibovitz was wrong by the books but Cirus was in no way the victim and in fact at the end Leibovitz was more the victim than she was. Cirus gained all the publicity and Leibovitz ended up with a damaged reputation. Where does Cirus’s parents and management come into play? Aren’t they responsible?

Aaron Patton's picture

I've also seen local movements in my hometown trying to bring these situations to light. They just don't get the press coverage that famous people do.

michael buehrle's picture

after watching the documentary called Nude about David Bellemere i'm not surprised he is on that list.

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