NEW YORK January 7, 2019
Famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber has been hit with a growing number of sexual harassment lawsuits. His alleged misconduct first came to light in 2017 when two male models, Jason Boyce and Mark Ricketson, represented by attorney Lisa Bloom, filed a case against the 72-year-old. According to Racked, Boyce claimed he was sexually assaulted by Weber when the photographer “put his fingers in his mouth, forcefully kissed him, pulled his underwear down, and made him touch both his own and Weber’s genitals.”
More misconduct claims were revealed in a January 2018 The New York Times story in which several male models accused Weber and fellow photographer Mario Testino of subjecting them to unwanted sexual advances, revealing fashion’s ugly casting couch history.
Last month, Bloom filed a new case representing five anonymous male models who are also accusing Weber of sexual misconduct. In the stories told by the models, Weber would use “breathing exercises” to make them vulnerable and would eventually grope and touch their genitals. The photographer, who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Meryl Streep, would allegedly use his credentials to take advantage of models by promising to advance their careers. In one situation, a model going by the initials B.A. stated that Weber threatened to give his modeling gig to someone else if he did not follow Weber’s “breathing exercises.”
With the accusations piling up against Weber, his legal team is firing back. Following Boyce’s latest legal filing, WWD reports, “Weber’s attorneys allege that the 32-year-old model’s claim of inappropriate touching during a 15-minutes go-see with Weber are ‘false and salacious’ and that his legal team is now ‘doubling-down on his false claims charade, by seeking leave to amend and assert a claim against Mr. Weber under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.’”
Weber, whose career has taken a hit since Boyce’s accusations were made public, claims in a legal filing that Boyce is “a failed model who (falsely) claims to have been inappropriately touched during a brief photo shoot, is seeking to now add a claim, based on these same allegations, that he is somehow a victim of sex trafficking. There are no legitimate reasons for this. However, there are plenty of improper ones, including; 1) increasing the public pressure on Mr. Weber that arises from false allegations in the #MeToo era to extort a hefty settlement, and 2) deflecting attention from the patent deficiencies in his case.”
Based on Weber’s counterarguments, it’s clear the legal battle is far from over, but what is certain: the industry needs to change in the #MeToo era.