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Bruce Weber Sex Abuse Allegations Mount

BoF can reveal new allegations of sexual misconduct against photographer Bruce Weber, stretching back to 1982.
Bruce Weber | Source: Getty
  • Hayley Phelan

NEW YORK, United States — On Saturday, The New York Times published an explosive exposé in which fifteen current and former male models and thirteen male assistants and models accused top fashion photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, respectively, of sexual misconduct and abuse. Today, The Business of Fashion can reveal further allegations against Weber, stretching back to 1982, made by four new sources who spoke on the record and several others who spoke on condition of anonymity.

D.L. Janney, a former male model, who recently released a memoir called "Blacklisted," which details his time in the industry, said that while on a break during a shoot for British Vogue in 1982, Weber asked him to strip down to his underwear for a photo he could take to Calvin Klein, whose campaigns Weber was shooting at the time. Janney was eager to comply until Weber asked him to get completely nude. According to Janney, Weber said that the photos would not be published anywhere and were for "his own use, and to show Calvin."

When Janney refused, he said the photographer refused to speak with him for the rest of the day. On another occasion, Weber had hired both Janney and his brother for a shoot for GQ; Weber asked the two brothers to remove their shirts and, according to Janney, “pretend to be boyfriends.” When they refused, Janney said they were subject to verbal abuse. As outlined in his book, Janney believes that Weber “blacklisted” him from the industry shortly after, making it impossible for him to find work as a model.

Over two decades later, Christopher Cates, a fit model, said that while on set for a photoshoot at Weber’s Miami home in 2006, the photographer asked each model to join him alone in a guest bedroom upstairs, away from the rest of the crew. Cates said that when he entered the room, Weber asked him to remove his shirt and pants, and later his underwear, and then proceeded to touch him inappropriately. According to Cates, Weber took photos during the incident using a digital SLR camera, though those photos were, to Cates’ knowledge, never used for any professional purpose.

Alex Geerman, a former model, massage therapist and healer, said that in 2008, Weber asked him to do “breathing exercises” that involved non-consensual touching of the chakras, including the root chakra, which is located around the genitals. “I didn’t understand what he was doing, and he didn’t explain it,” recalled Geerman, who said he left the shoot so disturbed he told his mother, who was waiting outside the studio: “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Yet, Geerman said that although he was upset at the time, he no longer believes that Weber did anything wrong. “It took me years to figure out, it wasn't a sexual thing. It was an art thing,” said Geerman.

Another model, Ryan Vigilant, said the photographer touched him inappropriately in a sexual manner during a shoot in 2008. Vigilant initially did not want to name Weber directly. However, after reading Weber’s statement in response to the New York Times story, he changed his mind. “The statements that Bruce and Mario, or should I say their lawyers made, pains me,” he wrote via email. “I don’t understand their denial. Either their sense of entitlement has so clouded their ethical judgement, it’s not based in reality anymore. Or they are going through so much pain internally and are destroying themselves.”

Jason Boyce, the model who recently filed suit in New York State Supreme Court against Weber and spoke to The New York Times, among others, said that Weber’s inappropriate behaviour was well-known within the industry though never explicitly stated. "Anytime you’d bring up Bruce it was always like, ‘Oh yeah he’s a little weird, he’s a little creepy, he does these weird breathing exercises,’” recalled Boyce. “That’s as far as anyone would talk about it. No one would ever fully-fledged say he assaulted me. It was always like a shrug it off, ‘Oh well, let’s not make this a big deal,’ as men do, ‘Let’s not make this a big deal.’”

The lawsuit also names Boyce’s agent, Jason Kanner, and his agency, Soul Artist Management. “We believe that he knew or should have known,” said Lisa Bloom, an attorney and founder of The Bloom Firm, which is representing Boyce, during a phone conversation in December.

Geerman said that while he believes agencies do provide certain protection against harassment, “When it comes to Bruce Weber, it was just this understanding like, look, he does this to everybody. So, it’s just kind of what you take from it, what you make from it. I definitely think a young person going to shoot with him, they don’t understand. I didn’t understand.”

Boyce said, "The culture was: you did what you were told. That was how they sold it. If you do what I tell you, you’ll make it. If you just do what I tell you. you'll make it. My agent told me that all the time."

Bloom said that since they filed suit, her law firm has been contacted by a large number of male models “who have claims against Bruce Weber and other powerful people in the industry.” Asked if others could join the suit, Bloom said she and her firm are vetting each claim, adding that the statute of limitations and the victims’ desire to remain anonymous, are the biggest hurdles. In New York, claims of sexual harassment must be filed within three years; in California, it’s as little as one year. “Many of them have very heartbreaking claims that seem very credible to me, but they’re simply time barred,” she said.

When asked for comment to these new allegations, a representative for Weber said he stood by his statement made to The New York Times: “I'm completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny. I have used common breathing exercises and professionally photographed thousands of nude models over my career, but never touched anyone inappropriately. Given my life’s work, these twisted and untrue allegations are truly disheartening. I've been taking pictures for over 40 years and have the utmost respect for everyone I've ever photographed. I would never, ever, try to hurt anyone or prevent someone from succeeding — it’s just not in my character.”

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