Terry Richardson’s always been a dilemma for me. The first time I saw anything of his was at a group show at Alleged on Prince Street. He had a grip of pics hanging–photomat quickprints of guys dressed up as Batman and Robin in various states of cocksuck. Funny, but the same shit I’d seen for years in alt.binaries.fetish usenet groups. I was kind of bummed that Aaron had put it in a show.
That was around the same time I was assisting for Kern. I remember heading to work a couple of times and running into Terry over there–trading prints with Richard. I was perplexed. Richard took out a copy of Son of Bob and started flipping thru it with me. It just kind of struck me as really similar to Larry Clark, Ed Templeton, Nick Waplington, Cameron Jamie, Harmony and Ryan McGinley’s work. I got the whole, “it’s all who you bump coke with” anthropology kick Terry was on. Fun. Yeah. Call up the Smithsonian–more qualm-weary kids sniffin’ glue and shovelin’ schlong!
So, a couple of months later, Aaron comes over to give me some design homework for the gallery. He brings a bunch of books in trade–Son of Bob included. I asked him what the deal was. “What, you’re not into Terry? He’s hilarious.” “I’m maybe just not inspired by Terry is all. I guess I’ve just seen lots of the same stuff for years and I sort of gloss over it. It’s just point and shoot on one of those Yashicas, right?” “Yeah. But his stuff’s so funny!”
I let it go. Everyone started buying Yashica T4’s. Everyone started shooting everything. People threw parties just to shoot them on their T4s in hopes of catching projectile streams of vomit mid-flash or underaged kids tackling tongues. These images became iconic and everyone had them. I started thinking, “well, at least–if nothing else–he’s inspiring people to make shit.” Again, I let it go. Yet still, even today… look at Dash Snow, aimlessly carrying that same dish-rag whore of a bluelight torch all the way to the bank with his human hamster coke-den. Wake up folks. Simulacra must die.
Anyway…cut to Terry’s meat packing district Alleged show some years later. OK. I had to admit. He’d gotten his concept together. Girls wearing his shades, taking his loads on their faces. Pretty fucking good. Summed up how I felt about fashion. Summed up how I felt about art.
And with that, he really started focusing on concrete series of work–ideas that he’d lift, re-think and own. He hasn’t looked back since. The other thing I’ve anecdotally come to learn about what he does, is that he really makes his subjects absolutely relaxed. That’s the part of photography that I guess people are flaunting in the images they make. Is the fact that a photo’s being taken so transparent that it’s obviously a joke? So invisible that it’s actually some sort of summary of someone’s character? Now… did Terry get there cos of all of the support people gave his work, or cos those elements were in utero and just needed to dodge the art-world’s fickle coat hanger? I dunno–but if you can find a copy, compare the images from Son of Bob to stuff like Terryworld and Kibosh. Nature or nurture?