Terry Richardson knows how to cause a stir. The notorious photographer, director and all round provocateur is known for his salacious pics of celebrities and models – and that ubiquitous thumbs up. He’s behind some of the most iconic pop culture images of the last few years – Miley crotch-grabbing, Gaga’s meat dress and that (admittedly sexy) nude of Miranda Kerr wearing thigh high boots are all Richardson’s.
Whether it’s smoking, underwear or food porn for magazine editorial or minimalist portraits against his studio’s ivory wall, the man knows how to set up a visual feast. He’s also a regular contributor to fashion tomes, shooting covers and editorial for various Vogues, Harper’s Bazaar and i-D, to name just a few.
Genre aside, Richardson seems to encourage his subjects to let loose and be themselves, but in a comfortable and non-judgemental environment.
“My rule is that I’d never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” he said in one of his interviews.
“That’s how it’s got to go this far. At first, I’d just want to do a few nude shots, so I’d take off my clothes, too … I’d even give the camera to the model and get her to shoot me for a while. It’s about creating a vibe, getting people relaxed and excited. When that happens you can do anything,” he clarified.
But we think there are a bunch of his photo shoots that haven’t quite got the recognition they deserved; superseded by the scandalous or those with the biggest names, some quality snaps have been relegated to recycling bin or lost in the ether.
So today we want to set things right, presenting to you our top ten underrated Richardson shoots – but we’re open to suggestions.
James Franco (Candy)
Okay, so James Franco is hardly a conservative when it comes to the performing arts/life in general. He’s an almost ridiculously in-depth method actor, curated a museum of ‘non-visible’ art, and most recently designed a pop-up YOLO-themed house in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. But these shots of him in drag for Candy, “the first transversal style magazine”, while sticking to Franco’s usual subversion of societal expectations also convey vulnerability and sadness as well as beauty. Whether he’s playing a trans character or not is beyond the point – these images are an interesting and striking examination of gender and sexuality in the media.
Coco Rocha (Vogue Paris 2007)
Richardson teamed up with much loved model Coco Rocha for this spellbinding shoot. Utterly unsettling and at some times frightening, it’s a riveting narrative told through images, with Rocha performing acts more suited to a horror flick than fashion editorial. Disconcerting imagery and actions combine with pieces from the likes of Chanel, Marc Jacobs and, to make for a conflicting shoot that is somehow both very Vogue and very Richardson.
Mom & Dad (2011)
Tattoos, denim and camera skills – it seems it runs in the Richardson family. The photographer released the books Mom & Dad in 2011, with tome devoted to each Annie and Bob Richardson who was a well-known fashion photographer before his death. Richardson also exhibited the images, largely shot on Polaroid film, at New York’s Half Gallery. In what is an honest, loving and at times confronting portrait of family, here Richardson gives us an insight into what shaped his raw style and eye.
More famous for saucy portraits than artistic snaps, these gorgeous shots for Yves Saint Laurent’s beauty contingent might seem a touch out of character. However he’s responsible for these vibrant and luxe campaign images (and the lovely BTS pics of Karlie Kloss and co.), proving his chops as a highly skilled photographer as well.
Bonus: Richardson has also starred in a high fashion campaign himself, lending a tattooed arm to a Valentino accessories shoot.
Lena Dunham (V Magazine, 2013)
Everyone loves Lena. And if they say they don’t, they’re just jealous. The charismatic and refreshingly frank Girls creator posed for Richardson earlier this year, and the results are very Lena (if you’ve seen her Insta, you know what I’m talking about). Cute, funny and more than a bit goofy, the photographer is almost there to simply capture her real self, rather than orchestrate arty shots. There is a pantless shot – not that that’s too different for Dunham or Richardson – but rather than being raunchy, it’s confident, classy and cute. Love you Lena!
We all know the President of the United States is a pretty cool cat, and this cements the fact. Although the actual shoot happened pre-Presidency in 2007, you can see how he won the public over. That toothy grin makes an appearance as well as some more serious snaps that are strong and presidential but not at all bland. In short: Obama will pretty much charm the pants of anyone who looks at these pics; if it were possible to love him anymore, I do now.
Rick Genest (aka Zombie Boy)
One of Richardson’s few shoots that is solely in black and white, these images are pretty much perfect. The Canadian displays much more emotion than your average zombie, with every from creepy and solemn to cheeky and even hungry for human flesh captured here. Richardson and Genest are the ideal match, with the awesome intricacy of the tattoos highlighted by the minimalistic and super clear shooting that has become the photographer’s signature style.
The poker-faced close ups are particularly haunting, a reminder of both the beauty of Genest and the work of art that is his body.
Paul Rudd & Jennifer Aniston (GQ)
Whether or not you’re Team Jen, there’s no way you can’t like Paul Rudd. This might be because of my deep-rooted love for the man (pretty much wish I was Cher in Clueless), but I think it’s also got something to do with his natural hilarity and comfortability in himself, which Richardson captures perfectly. This feuding couple style shoot is funny, cute and very rom-com, as well as boasting a simple colour scheme that is aesthetically wonderful. Can’t they just get together already?
‘Pussy West’ shoot (Vogue Paris, 2011)
Bringing together big names such as Crystal Renn and Australia’s Abbey Lee Kershaw, this Voguefeature focuses less on dashing cowboys, and rather on the sassy seductresses that rule the West. Terry’s favourite combination of raunch, skin and provocative imagery abides, but with a couture slant. The funeral image in particular is deliciously macabre, and somehow this shoot screams ‘girl power’…in sequins, of course.
Robert Downey Jr. (GQ, 2008)
What’s black, white and sexy all over? This shoot with RDJ, that’s what. A little rebellious, a little fetish and a whole lot of dayum, the shoot has a solid concept running throughout, yet still shows the actor’s now endearing arrogance and general charm.
The funny man isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but here he’s cute as a button and I love it. Fun + left-of-centre + wine dispensing hat = pure gold.
Chloe Sevingny – as Terry Richardson (Candy)
In another gender-bending shoot for Candy, Chloe Sevingny gets a rather unconventional makeover. I’ve always found doppelgangers intensely interesting, and even though the results aren’t exactly perfect, the model/all round ‘It girl’ does a pretty good job of becoming the man behind the lens. This takes every subject who’s imitating his thumbs up move to the next level.
Plus the kissing shot is mind-blowing.
Lindsey Wixson (Vogue Japan/i-D/anything ever)
Richardson’s Vogue Japan spread showing Wixson getting sexy with food (not to be confused with Crystal Renn getting
sexy kinda gross with food in Vogue Paris) is delish. Probably the only time I’ve ever really wished to be a hot chip, instead of just wanting to eat them. The gap-toothed beauty also photographed by Richardson for Harpers Bazaar, making out with a randy for i-D, and generally being a babe at his studio. Something of a modern day muse? Or maybe he just likes to watch her eat. Either way, we love the excess and the candidness of both styles.
Published at XXIV Magazine.