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Left Bruce Weber, right Mario TestinoPhotography Christopher Macsurak, Photography Walterlan Papetti, both images via creative commons

Bruce Weber & Mario Testino accused of misconduct by multiple models

The New York Times reports

Following a lawsuit filed against photographer Bruce Weber at the end of last year, the New York Times has published a long-rumoured, explosive exposé on the professional conduct of both Weber and fellow heavyweight photographer Mario Testino.

15 models and former models have come forward with allegations against Weber, while 13 models and former assistants have complained that Testino “subjected them to sexual advances that, in some cases, included groping and masturbation” in accusations that date back to the early 90s. All of those who have spoken out are male.

The claims regarding Weber are similar in content to those detailed in the lawsuit by Jason Boyce. The Times reports that the photographer subjected models to “a pattern of what they said was unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behavior, often during photo shoots” including “breathing exercises” which would escalate into genital touching. Apparently, the models even had a word for it: getting “Brucified”.

In one allegation against Testino by model Ryan Locke, the photographer allegedly invited the model to his room for a casting, answering the door in a loose robe and encouraging the model to go fully nude in his test shots. Locke also described the subsequent photo shoot, in which Testino was “aggressive and flirtatious throughout”. The photographer, he says, ordered everyone to leave the room, leaving himself alone with the model. Testino then locked the door and climbed on top of him, saying: “I’m the girl, you’re the boy,” before Locke pushed him off, got dressed and left.

Further accusations come from former assistants to Testino. One, Roman Barrett, said that “sexual harassment was a constant reality,” and claims that during the late 1990s the photographer rubbed against his leg with an erection and msaturbated in front of him. Another, Hugo Tillman, recalled a series of events that culminated in Testino grabbing him on a Paris street and trying to kiss him. Other victims have chosen to remain anonymous, fearing repercussions within the industry.

Many of the claims are supported by onlookers that worked alongside Testino. “I saw him with his hands down people’s pants at least 10 times,” recalled shoot producer Thomas Hargreave, who worked with the photographer from 2008-2016. “Mario behaved often as if it was all a big joke. But it wasn’t funny. And the guys being placed in these situations wouldn’t know how to react. They would look at me, like, ‘What’s going on? How do I deal with this?’ It was terrible,” he said.

Anna Wintour, who has worked with both photographers for decades at US Vogue, posted a response to the accusations stating that Condé Nast had decided to put their working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.

Tom Ford, who was creative director at Gucci when some of the events including Testino allegedly took place, told the Times that he had not been present and could not know what happened. Ford continued that he was sympathetic to anyone who had been harassed, but also cautioned that if a photographer needs a shot of a model’s face on a bed, there are very few angles to get it from.

Although Testino has not yet personally addressed the accusations, the law firm that represents him, Lavely & Singer, has challenged the character and credibility of those who claimed the photographer had harassed them, going as far as to call into question one accuser's mental health.

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