Terry Richardson’s career has been the subject of much scrutiny over the years. The incredibly successful fashion photographer, known for his minimalist white backgrounds and stripped-bare sets, has been criticized at times for his gonzo photography style and risqué photographs often featuring full-frontal nudity. While the media argues over the merit of such photographs, Mr. Richardson is busy jet-setting with his famous friends and snapping pictures of the world’s foremost fashion models, actors and musicians.
Terry should be used to his wild life by now being raised by his flower-child-hanging-with-Bob-Dylan mother Norma Kessler and father, a well-known photographer in his own right, Bob Richardson.
Via his Tumblr, Terry Richardson reiterated a point he made about his father in a 1998 interview as “very conservative, from Long Island, wearing button-down shirts, very upper middle class,” but meeting Norma, a dancer at the Copacabana club in New York City, changed all that. Bob Richardson ended up going to art school in New York, studying alongside Andy Warhol. One day, a friend gave him an old camera and encouraged him to be a photographer. Norma “gave up everything for him” and the family moved to Paris to further the elder Richardson’s career.
Bob got a job working for French Vogue and took some of his career-defining photos. Norma became a stylist to support the toddler Terry. The family lived there for four years before they moved back to New York City, which was a city that would become extremely important to Terry’s career.
In New York, things fell apart. Bob was introduced to Anjelica Huston, at the time a model trying to break into acting, and ended things with Norma. “[Anjelica] was seventeen and he was forty-three,” Terry said. “They were together for three years, and she was sort of like my older sister.” Norma knew she had to get out of the city and, in 1971, Norma moved Terry to Woodstock, New York.
“In the early ’70s it was still counter-culture,” Terry said. “Everyone who was fed up living in the big city moved there.” That’s where his mother met recording artist Jackie Lomax, the first artist signed to the Beatle’s Apple Records, and Terry’s soon-to-be step-father. Rampant nudism, guns going off at all hours of the night and “people… experimenting with things that just blew their minds” were de rigueur.
In 1973, Jackie got a deal with Capitol Records and the family left for L.A. While in L.A., Norma was driving in her Volkswagen Beetle when she was hit from behind by a telephone truck. “She was in a coma for a month,” Terry said. “And her equilibrium was fucked and she was in diapers, couldn’t walk.” This led to Terry acting out. He said, “I was hyperactive and very violent.” Terry was able to channel these emotions into photography, as well as musicianship, while chronicling the burgeoning Southern California punk scene.
At 18, Terry saw his father for the first time in years, and Bob “discouraged [him] so bad… [he] stopped taking pictures for seven years.” Although Bob criticized his son’s art, he helped Terry get the gig that broke him into the industry— a spread in Vibe Magazine. “That’s what made me a good photographer,” Terry said, and he’s also commented on Twitter.
With his infamous past and storied career, it’s no wonder Terry Richardson became the auteur the world is familiar with today. Hopefully, Terry will take after his father, a photographer continuing to filter the world through his unique view well into his seventies.
Now Terry has moved on to directing music videos, and even producing his own works of art. Including the Terrywood book, which compiles a ton of his own photography, from his first personal photo exhibition.