On Saturday morning, The New York Times reported that numerous male models and assistants have come forth to accuse renowned fashion photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino of sexual misconduct. Weber's predacious workplace practices were already under scrutiny when a male model sued him back in December, but Testino is the latest fashion photographers to be charged with sexual assault.
The Times report on Weber is based on the account of 15 male models who have worked with him on a number of projects for big-name brands, and go on to describe so-called "breathing methods" that Weber would use to undress models and coerce sexual behavior.
"I remember him putting his fingers in my mouth, and him grabbing my privates," model Robyn Sinclair tells the Times. "We never had sex or anything, but a lot of things happened. A lot of touching. A lot of molestation."
Similarly, 13 assistants and male models who have worked with Testino sat down with the Times to describe uncomfortable instances of groping and masturbation with the photographer that date back to the mid-'90s. Allegedly, Testino had a habit of hiring young, heterosexual men as assistants and then would make inappropriate sexual advances towards them.
Hugo Tillman was one such assistant who worked with the photographer in 1996 and was the victim of Testino's aggressive and unwarranted display of physical affection: "One night after a dinner, Mr. Tillman said the photographer grabbed him on the street and tried to kiss him," the Times reports. "A few weeks later, while on a business trip, Mr. Tillman met Mr. Testino in his hotel room. Mr. Testino demanded that the assistant roll him a joint, then threw him down on a bed, climbed on top of him and pinned down his arms."
"Sexual harassment was a constant reality," said Roman Barrett, another former assistant to Testino. Barrett claimed that the photographer rubbed up against his leg with an erection and masturbated in front of him.
Both representatives of the accused photographers said they were blindsided by the allegations and deny any truth to the statements made by these models and assistants; Testino's attorney implies that many of the accusers are either jealous, or call into question their mental health.
Nevertheless, Condé Nast has already issued a statement that they will not commission any new work with them in the future — despite having a past filled with glossy editorials and memorable portraits shot by them, including the February cover of Vogue, which was just released on Wednesday. Vogue has published a piece by Anna Wintour detailing Condé Nast's new Code of Conduct, which includes a commitment to only hiring models over 18 years of age and banning alcohol on sets. "Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront," Wintour says.
"Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future."
You can read the full report in The New York Times.