Celebrity and fashion photographer Mario Testino is accused of sexual harassment and assault by several male models and three photo assistants, according to a lengthy report by the New York Times. Many of his accusers went on the record with the Times and provided their names.
"Sexual harassment was a constant reality," Roman Barrett told the New York Times. Barrett worked as a photo assistant to Testino in the 1990s. "He misbehaved in hotel rooms, the backs of cars and on first-class flights. Then things would go back to normal, and that made you feel gaslighted," said Barrett. Barrett also alleges that Testino masturbated in front of him.
The New York Times also details how Testino would use his power to obtain access to nude male models. "If you wanted to work with Mario, you needed to do a nude shoot at the Chateau Marmont," male model Jason Fedele said to the Times. "All the agents knew that this was the thing to excel or advance your career." During these nude shoots, Testino allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour towards the models.
Another model, Ryan Locke, was cast in a campaign for Gucci during Tom Ford's helm. Testino was photographing Locke, when "he shuts the door and locks it. Then he crawls on the bed, climbs on top of me and says, ‘I’m the girl, you’re the boy.’ I went at him, like, you better get away. I threw the towel on him, put my clothes on and walked out."
Testino, through his lawyers, has denied all allegations, saying that the accusers "cannot be considered reliable sources." They called Barrett a disgruntled former employee. "I was pushed around, overworked, underpaid and sexually harassed daily. That’s why I was disgruntled," said Barrett in response.
In light of the allegations, Condé Nast has ceased working with both Mario Testino and Bruce Weber for the time being. In a press statement, Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor of American Vogue, and Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., chief executive of Condé Nast, explained: “We are deeply disturbed by these accusations and take this very seriously... We will not be commissioning any new work with Bruce Weber and Mario Testino for the foreseeable future.”
Testino has a long-standing relationship with Condé Nast, shooting regularly for both British and American Vogue, including the most recent February cover of the US edition, starring Serena Williams.
Reportedly, the international publishing house began working in late October 2017 on a code of conduct that will protect models and work to prevent this abuse of power within the industry occurring again, which will go into effect this month. Under new guidelines, the company will no longer work with models below the age of 18 and alcohol is prohibited on set. Photographers will not be permitted to use the set for personal projects once a commissioned shoot has wrapped and models are not to be left alone in the company of photographers or other contributors.
The #MeToo movement hasn't just engulfed entertainment, media, and politics, the reckoning has come for the fashion industry as well. Photographer Terry Richardson, long accused of harassing and assaulting female models, was blacklisted by Condé Nast, Hearst, and labels such as Valentino and Bulgari. Additionally, photographer Bruce Weber responded to two allegations of sexual assault. Fashion should not be left out of the conversation — particularly when models tend to be vulnerable to predators in the industry.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please visit the Rape Crisis website.