Male Models Say Mario Testino and Bruce Weber Sexually Exploited Them

Home"TO THE ONE"Male Models Say Mario Testino and Bruce Weber Sexually Exploited Them
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From left, Ryan Locke, Robyn Sinclair and Terron Wood. Each said he had experienced sexual harassment during his time modeling. Credit Ryan Young for The New York Times; Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times; Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Models and assistants described how Mr. Testino and Mr. Weber, two of the most prominent photographers in fashion, used their authority to engage in unwanted sexual behavior.

For a fashion model, success is the ability to induce desire. The job requirements include nudity and feigning seduction; provocation is a lever for sales. In the industry, the boundaries between the acceptable and the unacceptable treatment of models have been etched in shades of gray.

This has been prominent in promoting sexually exploiting models and assistants. The experience, ounce of the price, abuse of power and sexual harassment.

Fifteen current and trained male models who worked with Bruce WeberCalvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch helped turn him into one of the foremost commercial and fine art photographers, have described to the New York Times a pattern of what they said was unnecessary and coercive sexual behavior, often during photo shoots.

The men recalled, with remarkable consistency, private sessions with Mr. Weber Weber, Mr. Weber, moving their hands where they felt their "energy." Often, Mr. Weber guided their hands with his own.

"I remember him putting my fingers in my mouth, and he grabbing my privates," said the model Robyn Sinclair. "We never had sex or anything, but a lot of things happened. A lot of touching. A lot of molestation. "

In accounts going back to the mid-1990s, 13 male assistants and models who have worked with the Mario Testino, a favorite of the English royal family and Vogue, told The Times

Representatives for both photographers said they were dismayed and surprised by the allegations.

"I'm completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny," Mr. Weber said in a statement from his lawyer.

Lavely & Singer, a law firm that represents Mr. Testino, challenged the characters and credibility of people who complained of harassment, and also wrote that they were "shocked by the allegations" and that those employees "could not confirm any of the claims. "

Those who said they have been paid attention to the issue of acquiring and rewarding, or rejecting the approach and risk hobbling, or destroying, a career. Many said they still would not speak publicly.


The photographer Bruce Weber at Milan Fashion in 2011. Credit Evan Sung for The New York Times

In fashion, young men are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Male models are "the most respected and most disposable," said the model Trish Goff.

"It was general practice to give a heads-up to a specific photographer who knew a certain reputation," said Gene Kogan of his time working as an agent at Next Management between 1996 and 2002.

But, he said, "If you said you're going to work with someone like Bruce Weber or Mario Testino, you might just pack it in and go work in another industry."

As in Hollywood, allegations of harassment and assault have been aired periodically over the decades with little lasting effect. From agents to stylists to fashion brands

Regular revelations of abuse of female models - as far back as a "60 Minutes" investigation of modeling agencies in Paris in 1988 - faded away. Agents charged with charging in their charge continued to work. Tea photographer Terry RichardsonAfter being accused in a documentary of sexual assault of female modelseporting on the producer Harvey Weinstein changed the landscape.

The Mentor

When Madonna had her first daughter, the person who photographed her baby pictures for Vanity Fair was Mr. Testino, 63. He was also the man who immortalized the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. In 2014 he received an OBE. He recently photographed the February cover of Vogue, featuring Serena Williams and her daughter. Known for his ebullience and charm, Michael Kors, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana.

Two models have also complained about their behavior in the race of photographers Gucci campaigns in the '90s.

"If you wanted to work with Mario, you need to get a shot at the Chateau Marmont," said Jason Fedele, who appeared in those campaigns. "All the agents knew that this is the thing to excel or advance your career."

The nude work bothered him less than what he believed were sexual come-ons. It was said that Mr. Testino was gauging which "moves" might work, Mr. Fedele said - "it was a way to reach for the towel, and he definitely reached."


The photographer Mario Testino at a fashion show in Paris 2014. Credit Miguel Medina / Agence France-Presse - Getty Images

"He was a sexual predator," said Ryan Locke, who succeeded Mr. Fedele with Gucci.

Mr. Locke said that he was going to meet Mr. Testino, "everyone started making these jokes - they said he was notorious, and 'tighten your belt.'"

The casting took place at Mr. Testino's hotel. Instead of greeting Mr. Locke in the lobby, Mr. Testino was in his room, where he opened the door in a loose dress, Mr. Locke said. Then they got into a stalemate about the model.

Mr. Testino has been aggressive and flirtatious throughout, Mr. Locke said. On the last day of the shoot, Mr. Testino said, "I do not think he's feeling it. Everybody out, "Mr. Locke recalled.

"He shuts the door and locks it. Then he crawls on the bed, 'I'm the girl, you're the boy.' I went to him, like, you better get away. I threw the towel on him, put on my clothes on and walked out, "Mr. Locke said.

Tom Ford, then the designer for Gucci, said he had not been present and could not know what happened. He said that he was sympathetic to anyone who had been harassed, but

Former assistants said that Mr. Testino had a pattern of hiring young, usually heterosexual men and subjecting them to more aggressive advances.

Hugo Tillman was not long after Western College when he started freelancing as a photo assistant for Mr. Testino in 1996. Mr. Testino took him to his mentor. "I really liked him - I really looked up to him," Mr. Tillman said.

He moved to Paris and was working full time as Mr. Testino's fourth assistant, and was soon promoted to third. "It seemed like what Robert Altman would show, a fantasy of fashion." But, he said, "I was often made to feel uncomfortable on shoots, asked to massage Mario in front of other assistants, models and fashion editors."

One night after a dinner, Mr. Tillman said the photographer grabbed him on the street and tried to kiss him. A few weeks later, while on a business trip, Mr. Tillman puts Mr. Testino in his hotel room. Mr. Testino asked that the assistant roll him joined, then threw him down, Mr. Tillman said. Mr. Testino's brother came into the room and made the photographer get off Mr. Tillman.


Jason Fedele in his shop at his home in Florida. After a fashion model, Mr. Fedele now works a mix of jobs, from carpentry to web design. Credit Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Mr. Testino said Mr. Testino's brother "is adamant that no such incident ever took place." Mr. Tillman's girlfriend confirmed in an interview that he relayed this story to her at the time. He also submitted testimony regarding the experience to the New York City Commission on Human Rights last December.

"I was scared," he said. "Mr. Tillman leaves the next weekend, and is now a fine art photographer, who has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Shanghai Biennale.

Taber, a model who worked with Mr. Testino for much of the late 90s and early 2000s, described Mr. Testino as a friend until he stuck his hand on the back of Taber's pants, and shown up at his hotel room asking for sex. "He was a mentor who took it a step too far," he said.

"Sexual harassment was a constant reality," said Roman Barrett, an assistant to Mr. Testino in the late '90s who said the photographer rubbed up against his leg with an erection and masturbated in front of him.

"He misbehaved in hotel rooms, the backs of cars and on first-class flights," he said. "Then things would go back to normal, and that made you gaslighted."

Another assistant to Mr. Testino, a decade later, said he had his pants pulled down and buttocks fondled while on the job. Yet another saying that Mr. Testino masturbated on him during a business trip. Both are granted anonymity because they feared career repercussions.

Even those who worked for Mr. Testino without experiencing the most direct harassment were affected. "Said Thomas Hargreave, a shoot producer who worked with Mr. Testino between 2008 and 2016." Mario behaved often as if it was a big joke. But it was not funny. And the guys in these situations would not know how to react. They would look at me, like, 'What's going on? How do I deal with this? ' It was terrible. "

Lavely & Singer, the law firm that represents Mr. Testino, said in a letter in response to these accounts that the individuals who spoke to The Times "can not be considered reliable sources." They wrote that Mr. Tillman had spoken well of Mr. Testino before, and called his mental health into question, so it would be extremely reckless to rely on him as a source. Regarding Mr. Fedele, who said that they had been photographed nude by others and had posted a nude picture of himself, taken by Herb Ritts, to Instagram in 2015. They also wrote that Mr Hargreave and Mr. Barrett were disgruntled train employees.

"I was pushed around, overworked, underpaid and sexually harassed daily," Mr. Barrett said. "That's why I was disgruntled."

"I'm telling the truth because this needs to stop now," Mr. Hargreave said.

Selling Sex

As Calvin Klein, who created a hypersexual image for his brand with the help of Mr. Weber, recently told The Times, "I picked the pictures the same way I always did: what got my heart racing." (Mr. Weber has not worked with the brand that bears Mr. Klein's name since 2008.) .

"We sell sex," Mr. Ford said.

Jessie English, a female photographer who spent three years as an assistant, mainly to photographers before going on her / his / her you get the right look on your face, that's just the way it is. "

Fashion and media brands say it is up to agencies to protect models, while the agencies say it is up to the brands not to hire photographers with bad reputations. For their part, the photographers say they do what they do to get the best picture - which is what the customers want.

And no union exists for models, whose youth and eagerness for a measure of stardom make them disinclined to complain.

"Models are not educated about what is not acceptable behavior, and often do not have the vocabulary to express their experiences," said Edward Siddons, a model turned journalist.

"Male models are paid much less than they do not become icons, because they are deeply uncomfortable with that happening to men," Mr. Ford said.

"I knew that if people did not like you, you were not much inspired," Taber said. "The models that got jobs are the stylists and photographers are into. I also wanted to be very active, especially the most powerful people in the business. I would almost get offended if they did not want to have sex with me. That's how I got groomed. That's how it worked in my mind. "

Mr. Fedele said, Mr. Testino, Mr. Testino. "Those are the pivot points for photographers to test the waters on whether or not it's going to be a challenge for them to get to you," he said. "Because if you do get the job, the majority of the time you're not naked and you're not in a swimsuit. So what's really happening is that these guys are pretty happy, or quite frankly, whether you're gay or straight and willing to submit to an advance. "

Breathing Exercises

Since the 1970s, Mr. Weber, 71, has been one of the most important commercial and fine art photographers. His name has become "synonymous with erotically charged depictions of good-looking young men," The Times wrote in 1999.


Hugo Tillman, a photo assistant at Mr. Testino, at his home in New York City. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

In 2005, he photographed the model Robyn Sinclair for Ralph Lauren. They worked together on many other jobs. According to Mr. Sinclair, "breathing exercises" - both in person and over the phone - were a feature of their relationship.

"It's like I was willing and unwilling at the same time," he said. "I wanted to work."

Models say that Mr. Weber was given to private audiences with young men.

"They're going for brucified," said Rudi Dollmayer, a Swedish model who shot with Mr. Weber three times.

"It's presented as an option, but it is not really," Erin Williams, a female model on two of Mr. Weber campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, said of working nude. In testimony to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, she wrote: "The models that did not go nude were always cut on day two, and those who would not stay for additional shoot days. The boys who would be socialize with Bruce after the shoots, would be in front of the hotel.

In 2011, during a shoot for International Men's Vogue in Miami, Mr. Weber summoned the model Josh Ardolf, then 20, to a private room. Mr. Weber photographed him in the nude and then, when Mr. Ardolf seemed uncomfortable, led him through an exercise.

"I was guiding his hand," Mr. Ardolf said. "We did the chest, the shoulders, the head. Then I finally put his hand on my abs. Did the breathing. Right after that, he's right on my genitals. I was first in shock. I did not know what to think. I backed up. I felt very, very uncomfortable and very sick. "

"I felt helpless," Mr. Ardolf said. "Like my agency said, he has a lot of power. He's done a lot of large campaigns. That was in the back of my mind. 'I can not screw this up. I already made it this far '

Mr. Weber mentioned future campaigns when he followed up with Mr. Ardolf in a series of phone calls in subsequent months. He repeated the exercises on the phone and asked Mr. Ardolf to touch his genitals and stimulate himself, Mr. Ardolf said.

"The first thing I was told about Bruce was doing very well in real precarious situations," said Terron Wood, a model who shot several ad campaigns with Mr. Weber between 2007 and 2010.


Monty Hooper, a model who had a test shoot with Mr. Weber, in Philadelphia. Credit Mark Makela for The New York Times

His first job was for Ruehl, a now defunct Abercrombie brand, when he was summoned alone to Mr. Weber's hotel room.

Mr. Weber puts his hand on Mr. Wood's forehead and has been told to close his eyes and breathe in deeply. Then Mr. Weber moved back and began taking pictures, telling Mr. Wood to grab his shirt, which he was to pull up or down. From there, Mr. Weber instructed him to do the same thing with his shorts.

"Steve Urkel, just going down," Mr. Wood said.

Eventually, Mr. Wood's genitals were displayed, with Mr. Weber continuing to photograph him.

"It unfolded slowly," Mr. Wood said. "He's directing you, and the peak moment is when you're fully exposed and being told to hold it. 'Hold that pose.' And you're wondering what are the pictures are even for. Because you're not on set. You're thinking, 'This is not what I'm getting paid for.' "

He also felt guilty, he said, knowing that he had agreed to show Mr. Weber his penis only because he was the photographer for Ralph Lauren.

Bobby Roaché, a model who went for a casting with Mr. Weber in 2007 and left after he said the photographer tried to "stick his hands down my pants," described the reaction from one of his agents: "That's all he did? You should have gone further. "

The model Monty Hooper said Mr. Weber told him he had "to learn more about" at a test shoot at the photographer's TriBeCa studio in 2014. At the shoot, Mr. Hooper stopped undressing before revealing his genitals, so Mr. Weber led him through a breathing exercise. "If I'm more vulnerable," Mr. Hooper said he was told, "I'll go a lot farther in my career modeling."

"He was hugging me really closely," Mr. Hooper said. Disturbed, he thanked Mr. Weber and left. After that, he said, the amount of work was so much dry.

Mr. Hooper was born with a number of models in an apartment maintained by Soul Artist Management, many of whom worked with Mr. Weber. "This is big for you. Jason Boyner, Jason Boyce, before a test shoot, according to a lawsuit Mr. Boyce filed in New York State Supreme Court against Mr. Weber, Mr. Kanner and Little Bear Inc., the production company run by the photographer's companion and agent, Nan Bush.

In his complaint, Mr. Boyce said Mr. Weber groped him and kissed him. In this case, Mr. Weber described the complaint as "false." (Mr. Kanner said he would respond to this month.) Mr. Boyce's lawyer is Lisa Bloom, who represented Harvey Weinstein At the time of death, it was first of all harassment claimants.

At the lawsuit's announcement - which Mr. Weber's lawyers described as "defamatory press conference" in their filing - Ms. Bloom produced another roommate, Mark Ricketson, who said that was 18.

"I have used common breathing exercises and professionally photographed nude models over my career, but never touched anyone inappropriately. Given my life's work, these twisted and untrue allegations are truly disheartening. I've been taking pictures for over 40 years and have the utmost respect for everyone I've ever photographed. I would never, ever, try to hurt someone or prevent someone from succeeding - it's just not in my character, "Mr. Weber said in his statement to The Times.

Jeff Aquilon, a longtime muse whom Mr. Weber discovered in 1978, said in December that he had never had a bad experience with the photographer.

"What is it that is so uncharacteristic of what I would expect from that kind of blew my mind," Mr. Aquilon said. "I did speak to him a day or two ago. I said: 'Bruce, I can not believe what is out there. Sorry to hear what you're going to have to go through here. ' He just said, 'Will you pray for us?' I said I definitely would. "

Source: ©  Male Models Say Mario Testino and Bruce Weber Sexually Exploited Them

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