Fashion photographer and director Bruce Weber is the latest famous figure accused of sexual misconduct, by two male models who say Weber pressured them to take off their clothes and to touch their own genitals during photo shoots.
During a Los Angeles press conference with his attorney, Lisa Bloom, model Jason Boyce said that Weber violated New York employment law by sexually harassing him, discriminating against him on the basis of gender, and causing him to suffer humiliation, emotional anguish and the loss of his modeling career in New York.
Bloom, who filed a lawsuit against Weber on Boyce’s behalf, also introduced another male model, Mark Ricketson, who said Weber similarly harassed him.
The two described “casting-couch” photo shoots with Weber in which the photographer, now 71, told them to remove their clothes and touch themselves, then took his hand and guided their hands to their genitals or to his own.
“He grabbed my arm and moved it back and forth, so I was forced to rub myself,” Boyce said emotionally. “He then took my hand and put it over his genitals.”
Boyce said he froze, unable to respond. Before he left, he said, Weber grabbed him and kissed him on the mouth.
“The entire experience was terrifying and humiliating,” Boyce said. “I have suffered from depression and anxiety as a result of my photo shoot with Bruce Weber, and want this behavior to end now. I filed this lawsuit to show that this kind of abuse is wrong, and to hopefully stop it from happening to more of us.”
Ricketson recounted a similar encounter from 13 years ago when he was 18. He said Weber similarly guided his hand to touch his genitals. He said nothing about the encounter until recently, adding that he can’t sue under California law because it happened too long ago.
“I’ve … talked to other young men who, like me, knew that if we protested or refused then we would be blacklisted, not just from the photo shoot, but likely from our agency,” Ricketson said. “There is no safe place to go. If you wanted to work, you did what you were told.”
Boyce’s lawsuit, filed Friday in New York, also names Weber’s agent, Jason Kanner, of Soul Artist Management, as well as Little Bear Inc., a New York-based company run by Weber’s wife, Nan Bush, that casts models for his photography work.
Bloom said the modeling industry is “long overdue for accountability for its exploitation of models” who are at the mercy of agents, agencies and photographers. She said she’s interviewed other models who are too frightened to speak out, even about sexual assaults, for fear of career damage.
“Others have told me that they left the business because they could no longer put up with the exploitation,” she said. “Some have said they thought being harassed and groped was just part of the business. But it’s not. Every worker, regardless of industry, is entitled to a workplace free of sexual harassment.”
Bloom said the case is already having an effect and that other models have reached out to her. She urged anyone with “similar experiences” to contact her firm.
Weber, a renowned photographer who has been a darling of fashion publications for five decades, has photographed countless Hollywood stars and fashion layouts over his career, in addition to helming music videos in the 1990s.
In 2013, Vanity Fair published a 40-page portfolio spread that included images of such stars as Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck. In fact, the magazine was scheduled to co-host a Miami dinner party Tuesday to celebrate All-American Volume XVII, the latest volume in Weber’s annual survey of American legends.
Bloom, a women‘s rights attorney who has represented accusers of Bill Cosby, was an adviser to accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein earlier this year after dozens of women alleged he sexually harassed, coerced, assaulted or raped them in episodes dating back decades.
Weber is the second major fashion photographer accused of sexual misconduct this year. Terry Richardson, the American fashion shooter with a sexually-explicit aesthetic, was banned by major magazines, including Condé Nast’s titles such as Vogue, as the Weinstein scandal and other sexual misconduct scandals gained steam.
Multiple allegations have been made against Richardson since 2010, when a number of models began going public with their accounts of graphic abuse, inappropriate touching and sexual harassment they said Richardson subjected them to on his photography sets.