[quote]<!--coloro:deeppink--><span style="color:deeppink"><!--/coloro-->The year is 1976 and the eleven-year-old future fashion phenomenon is in the back of Hughe's Market, staring raptly at the glossy pages of a magazine. While other boys enjoy the California sun, Terry is crouched here behind the shelves of mayonnaise, coffee and canned peas, his eyes feasting on the play of light on form, marveling at camera angles and imaginative close-ups. One page in particular is irresistible. He carefully removes it from the magazine, stuffs it down the front of his pants and with heart pounding, exits the store. At home in the big closet of his mother's Hollywood apartment he extracts his prize and gets to work, jacking off to the page torn from Penthouse magazine.
What? You thought it'd be French Vogue? Somewhere, surely, there is a boy stealing pages from fashion magazines, but Terry Richardson, son of innovative sixties' fashion photographer Bob Richardson, had no vision of his fashion future at age eleven. "I'd flip through the magazines and find pictures I liked, usually girls with big boobs. I figured if I stole individual pages it wouldn't be as bad as stealing the whole magazine if I got caught. I liked hairy pussies and big tits."
Terry was born in 1965, in New York City, when Bob Richardson was at the height of his career. His mother was a dancer, performing on stage in Bye Bye Birdie and at the Copacabana nightclub. It was a jet set life for young Terry until the Richardsons divorced in 1970 and Norma Richardson moved him to Woodstock, taking a job as a waitress, changing her name to Annie, and "just going into Bohemian hippiedom". In Woodstock Annie met her second husband, English musician Jackie Lomax, who was recording at the famous Bearsville studios nearby. The family stayed on for four years in Woodstock, tried a year in London and then settled in Hollywood. Ten-year-old Terry did not adjust well. "I was extremely violent as a child," he explains, which is why Annie was on her way to pick him up from a therapist's the day she was rear-ended by a Pacific Bell telephone truck.
The coma lasted a month, and when she awoke doctors determined the brain damage was permanent. "She could never really walk properly and she was in diapers," Terry says. There was no question of Annie returning to work, so while the court case dragged on the family survived on welfare. "The US government and my grandma raised me from ten to fourteen. My life basically started off jet set and then we were nearly homeless, on welfare and food stamps. I ate a lot of commodity cheese." To get them off welfare Terry's step-dad settled out of court with Pacific Bell. "All she got was three hundred grand. She should have got millions, but we were so poor and needed the money," Terry says.
Drugs, alcohol and those magazine pages from Hughe's Market provided comfort. "I started smoking weed around ten, eleven. By thirteen I was drinking every day. In Hollywood it was easy. Punk rock set in; you could always get somebody to buy you beer. Plus my parents always had weed in the house and coke and stuff. I was so insecure and painfully shy that unless a girl really went after me, said, 'Fuck me!' I couldn't make a move. That's probably why I turned to drugs and alcohol and pornography at an early age."
And what went better with drugs and porn than punk? Terry began playing in bands at fifteen, including Angered Citizens, SSA (Signal Street Alcoholics), Invisible Government, Baby Fist and Middle Finger. A sampling of his lyrics:
"It's ten o'clock, do you know where your children are?
Cause if you don't, they won't get far;
He likes little girls; he likes little boys;
He gets his jollies by playing with their toys;
He likes little girls; he likes little boys;
He gets a hard-on, that's his biggest joy;
Child molester's gonna get you! Child molester's gonna get you!
It's twelve o'clock, are your children in bed?
Cause if they're not, they'll soon be dead."
The big recording contract, amazingly, eluded him. At eighteen Terry began shooting heroin. This followed the family's move from Hollywood to the small, arty town of Ojai, ninety miles north of Los Angeles, in his senior year of high school. "That's where I really got into drugs," Terry says. "I was the punk kid from Hollywood and I got everyone into punk rock. We had gangbangs. There was one girl we called Heather Hosely. At fourteen she'd had a baby with a guy who was the leader of a commune. She was a great one..."
Terry's suddenly distracted by an assistant who wants his approval on a photograph. "That's beautiful, beautiful, we have to use that," he says. It shows Terry, completely naked, photographing a clothed Kate Moss.
"When I started doing nudes," he says, "I'd ask girls if they'd take their clothes off and they'd be like, 'Well, you take your clothes off!' and I'd be shy, 'I'm not gonna take my clothes off!' I was also trying to find couples to have sex and take pictures and it was always difficult. So finally, three years ago, I started to take my clothes off. People in fashion were saying, 'If I see one more picture of a girl with her legs spread... He's a misogynist, he's a porn guy.' So hey, I'll spread my legs too. I'll be the object. The thought of people masturbating to me, or to pictures I take, is great. That's a wonderful inspiration to give someone.
Through your art you work out emotional things, psychological things. I found it's fun to get naked. When you get sober, stop drinking or taking drugs, you need new ways to get rushes. Getting naked and running around, or having sex in front of a bunch of people, is such a rush. My motto is, I'd never ask anyone to do something I wouldn't do myself. So now I let girls take pictures of me naked and they can stay clothed. It does raise that bar, though, you have to do more and more, like with drugs. What can I do now to get that big thrill?"
In 1983 nudism was still years away and drugs were very much the big thrill for Terry. "Me and my friends were just sitting around smoking weed all day and watching television after [I graduated from] high school," he says. One day his exasperated mother unplugged the television and Terry tore up the apartment, throwing her across the room. She had him arrested. He returned to Hollywood and his rock-star dreams. Though his living expenses were low - he shared a four hundred dollar a month apartment with two other aspiring rock stars - food and drugs weren't free. Terry began assisting photographers, setting up lights, changing film, and one, a man named Tony Kent who'd once worked for his father, taught him the basics of photography. "I started thinking, 'I could do this. These guys suck and make lots of money and have houses and all.' I had these Hollywood friends who were actors, like Donovan and Alex Winter and Balthazar Getty, who I was hanging out with. I started photographing them. That was '89."
Soon after Bob Richardson surfaced in San Francisco. Terry was getting portrait work from the Hollywood-based gay lifestyle magazine The Advocate by then, but Bob convinced him to move up north with the promise of molding him into a fashion photographer, so he could, as Terry says, "Once again conquer the world." Bob took Terry beyond the basics he'd learned from Kent, teaching him not just the mechanics, but the art of photography. "I took photos and my dad critiqued them," says Terry. With Bob's mentoring the two put together a portfolio and Terry took it to New York. Bob followed, and father and son set up business as The Richardsons. It lasted six months. "I would take the pictures and he would kind of art direct and we would hang out together and get drunk and smoke tons of weed," Terry says. "We were working for Glamour and Mademoiselle doing these really cheesy small pictures and stuff. Then we did a few portraits for Vibe magazine."
The urban style magazine was closer to Terry's world than Bob's. Bob Richardson pioneered documentary-style fashion photography in the early sixties. His chain-smoking, melancholic models introduced realism into an often stiff, studio-bound genre, but the cool sophistication of Bob's photos referenced his upper class New York roots. Terry's squalid Hollywood punk background demanded a different kind of expression. In Vibe Terry saw an audience that might be receptive to life as he knew it, so when the magazine asked The Richardsons to shoot a major fashion piece, Terry had to act.
"The night before [the shoot] I called my dad and said, 'I can't do it with you. I need to make it myself or I'm not going to get anywhere', and he was like, 'You'll never do it on your own, you can't make it without me!' I said 'Fuck you' and hung up the phone. I just hoped he wouldn't show up the next day." Bob didn't show up and the art director was happy to let Terry script the shoot his way. "There was one male model who quit because he wouldn't make out with the girls, but I did this story of kids getting drunk and making out and pissing in the streets. It ended up going into the Festival de la Mode for best new fashion story of the year. So basically, I went in and won an award. This was '93." Terry was now an award-winning fashion photographer, but he quickly learned it took more than a trophy to convince New York's fashion establishment that kids pissing in the snow could move product. Fortunately he had a friend who told him, "Real photographers don't wait for the phone to ring; they go out and take pictures."
"Kevin showed me Larry Clark's Teenage Lust and Nan Goldin's The Other Side. I'd never seen photos like that; I didn't think anyone would document that stuff. So concurrently with doing that story for Vibe I started hanging out in the East Village and Tompkin's Square Park every day, taking pictures of kids, the homeless, junkies. Going out at night and photographing all the antics of the East Village. I developed this documentary passion. Photographing everything."
When the phone finally did ring it was British designer Phil Bicker, who'd nominated Terry's Vibe piece for the Festival de la Mode and launched a number of photographic careers as art director of the edgy English-style magazine The Face. Bicker offered him the Katherine Hamnett fashion campaign. Terry went to London, did the campaign and worked for ID, The Face and "all those magazines".
Suddenly the New Yorkers who'd rejected Terry's portfolio, the ones who'd told him his pictures were too amateurish, that fashion photos couldn't look like snapshots, that his work resembled some seventies' porn film, all wanted to book him. Since, his photos have appeared in the US, French, British and Japanese editions of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W, Arena Homme Plus, Dazed & Confused, Purple, Vice and most of the world's major fashion titles. He's shot campaigns for Gucci, Levi Strauss, Miu Miu, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Club Monaco, Anna Molinari, Supreme, StÃ¼ssy, Baby Phat, Costume National, Hysteric Glamour, Matsuda, Eres, Jigsaw and Sisley, with the Sisley photos particularly instrumental in creating the Richardson legend.
"Sisley was a great job for a long time because they were really just letting me be me, doing whatever the hell I wanted to do. It was all about sex pictures. I've always been able to walk that fine line, to balance myself, to do fashion and also do my naughty pictures. Why do I get away with it? I'm a genius. With a capital J."
Terry's bad boy reputation does exact a price. "There are certain celebrity publicists who don't want me shooting their clients [some of the fearless celebs who've posed for Terry include Macaulay Culkin, Daniel Day-Lewis, Catherine Deneuve, Leonardo DiCaprio, Faye Dunaway, Tom Ford, Vincent Gallo, Samuel L. Jackson, Marc Jacobs, Li'l Kim, Lenny Kravitz, Juliette Lewis, Morrissey, Johnny Knoxville, Pink, Chloe Sevigny, Sharon Stone, Mark Wahlberg, John Waters and The Spice Girls], but the key is getting things published, so I don't try to do something that no one is ever going to see. When people meet me they say, 'You're so nice and sweet, I expected some monster.' I really am that 'golly gee' kind of sweet. That's why I'm able to get the images I do; I make people comfortable. I work quick and make them have fun. I'm good at getting really human pictures, not always sexual. I'd have a lot more money if I was more careful of what I do image-wise. I still have this struggle; I'd like to buy a house and all, but when I try to do pictures just for money I never do them that good. When I just do what makes me happy, that's what people respond to.
"In the end I'll be remembered for the snapshots. Kids come up to me on the street and say, 'You totally inspired me to take pictures by what I see on your website.' Some people still say, 'Well, I could do that' because it looks like snapshots, and I say, 'That's great, go out and do it.' I'm happy to inspire people." About that website. Terryrichardson.com's opening page bears the standard warning found on any porn site: "This site contains sexually oriented adult material intended for individuals 18 years of age or older. If you are not over 18 years of age, if adult material offends you..." The Picture of the Week on June 21st, 2004 showed Terry's assistant Keiichi brushing his teeth, shorts around his knees, penis erect. The galleries are divided into categories. Found Objects includes road signs and road kill, graffiti, religious mementos, a man preparing dope, a dog drinking beer. In Portraits one can find Terry's parents, friends, assistants, even, I just discovered, me. Celebrities features the folks listed above; but most of the other categories: Shine, Weed, Batman, Nude Dudes, Nude Girls are worthy of the triple X warning. Terry says, "I don't even know why I have a sex website. I don't want to work in the porn industry; if I was working for Barely Legal it wouldn't be a challenge. When you work in the fashion industry you can make things that are seen by so many people. That's the most subversive thing; to be out in the mainstream and get away with it.
I know most people have collections of this kind of material, even in the fashion industry. You look at the images from Iraq with that twenty-year-old girl making prisoners masturbate for the camera. It comes from porn. I think it will become the norm for people to have cameras in their homes, documenting their sexual activity. It's there; why not bring it out into a mainstream context? I guess it's just fun to have the website up, like a hobby, every guy's dream."
Terry's feeling increasingly comfortable in the mainstream. His newest project, a semi-autobiographical film, was originally envisioned as sexually explicit. Set in California's San Fernando Valley it's about an eighteen-year-old boy whose long absent father returns to wreak havoc on his life. "His dad's been in jail and because this kid's just graduated from high school he has access to all these young girls. His dad is trying to set up an amateur porn production company with these girls. It's called Son of a Bitch." The film may center on the porn industry, but Terry says, "With every revision of the script I take out more and more sex, because everyone expects me to make an X-rated film. Why not make a real Hollywood film people can see? I want to play in the multiplexes."
Richardson in America's multiplexes? The boy who once selected his dates from the magazine rack of Hughe's Market has traveled far. At age 38 Terry Richardson has survived dope, welfare, terminal shyness and bad punk bands to become that most fortunate of artists: one who's paid well to do exactly what he wants. He can now say, "I just want to have fun; treat people good; be a good person; I'm a firm believer in Karma," because the gods have been very, very good to Terry Richardson.<!--colorc--></span><!--/colorc-->
For some odd reason I never caught the end of that, have a bad feeling that Son of a Bitch won't hit till 2015?.....