An article I found interesting with strong images by and about Bob Richardson, written by Kathy Brewis for some magazine quite a while back (based on the content I’d estimate 2007)- I have no idea where I tore this from, it’s too long ago. The article added insight into Terry Richardson’s work too, Bob’s son.
The parts which interested me below:
He was a true original, a high flying fashion photographer who lived by his own rules. Then Bob Richardson slipped off the radar, losing everything in the fog of mental illness. Now Terry Richardson is publishing his father’s work for the first time.
Before he fell off the map, Bob Richardson’s life looked like one great hedonistic picnic. It was the 1960s- when else? – and Richardson was a hotshot on the New York photography scene, an iconoclast more interested in documenting the age than making clothes look pretty. In his vision, love comes cheap but never easy. The beautiful people are unhappy.
“His photographs are timeless,” says his son, Terry. They’re haunting, so dark and soulful and human. They stay with you. So much fashion photography is surface and gloss- it’s rare that an image is deep and pulls you in.”
Terry’s images on the other hand are the opposite to his fathers work yet in some ways he touches on many of the same elements in his own way. Terry’s photographs are brash, explicit, memorable for their trashy-ness, not deep but rather purposefully meaningless, the hedonistic and self-obsessed side of humanity.
Bob died in 2005; Terry, a successful photographer himself, has put together a book of his father’s work that includes a poignant, uncensored memoir. Bob didn’t archive his negatives like many of his peers – he threw them away. “He was only ever interested in what he’d just done.” The book was pieced together by re-photographing the images from the original publications in which they’d appeared.
Bob set out to “put a reality” in his photographs. “Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll- that’s what was happening. And I was going to help make it happen.” He caught the moment perfectly, in both pictures and words.
“Mid- ’60s- Acapulco. Big Scandal- Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato having marathon sex at full volume in their bungalow at Teddy Stauffer’s hotel- beautiful bar in the centre of the pool- drinking margaritas in waist-deep water- weed called “Acapulco Gold” everywhere- borrowed underwater Nikon from Jacques Cousteau- photographed clothes on model underwater- all clothes destroyed.”
“Early ’60s. Jill Kennigton- English model- sensational beauty- love at first sight- we worked in New York- London- Paris- Venice- she came to my studio with her boyfriend of the moment- he threatened me with a gun and fired two shots into the ceiling. Never saw him again…” Heady Times. But there was another side to the coin, a toxic combination of drugs, alcohol and mental illness.
“I have always photographed loneliness because that is my life,” he wrote. “People say my work is sexual. Look closer, stupid.”
…Terry says: “There are so many constraints in fashion, he was worn out by it.”
These constraints Terry comments about above are a real and destructive force in the creativity of idea/image making as so much of what is produced in the fashion/beauty realm is governed by a wearying tight-rope teeter between sexuality & its taboos Vs. mainstream perceived conservatism and “norms” Sex sells but in a controlled or contrived way which is what makes Bobb and Terry’s work controversial in their own separate ways.
His father taught him not to care what others think.
Thats for sure. (I won’t add any of Terry’s explicit work, I find it obnoxious).
“The most important thing is to create things that you love. Acclaim is great but when you look in the mirror, what matters is that you’re happy with yourself. I know Dad felt that.”
Bob: ” How have I been able to survive for 75 years- guts- willpower- pride- I am very proud of myself- I am not ashamed of anything- I have no secrets- I am free. What about you?”
Below are a few of Terry’s pics. His work (and that of Jürgen Teller) made its’ way into mainstream media at the same time and became recognised for its bold lack-of-technical-anythingness yet is intriguing for the way he handles the subject and the message construed about popular culture.