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What We Learned This Week: Emily Ratajkowski On Photography and Abuse

By David Schonauer   Friday September 25, 2020


They tell writers not to bury the lead.

But that is what model-turned-actress Emily Ratajkowski did in an essay published recently at New York magazine’s The Cut.

In the essay, as we noted this week, Ratajkowski accuses photographer Jonathan Leder of sexually assaulting her during a photoshoot at his home in 2012. The photographer, noted The Guardian, has  strongly denied the claim.

In the essay, Ratajkowski recounts the 2012 episode, which tool place when she was 20 years old and trying to build her portfolio. On the advice on her agent, who’d she known since she was 14, she traveled to the Catskills in Upstate New York for an unpaid editorial photoshoot with Leder at his home. “Leder would pick me up and reimburse me for my fare. We’d shoot in Woodstock, for some arty magazine I’d never heard of called Darius, and I’d spend the night at his place,” recalls  Ratajkowski.

“When I looked up Jonathan’s work online, I saw a few fashion editorials he’d shot on film. A little boring, I remember thinking. Hipster-y. His Instagram was mostly pictures of his home and a few strange, retro images of a very young-looking Russian woman with obvious breast implants. Kind of weird, I thought, but I had seen weirder,” she writes.

“She writes that she remembers feeling ‘confident, unafraid and proud’ as she posed for Leder in an upstairs bedroom — first, in vintage-inspired lingerie, and later (on his suggestion) completely nude, the model claims,” noted People magazine. “My body felt like a superpower,” Ratajkowski wrote. “Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated.”

Ratajkowski then relates a graphic account of the alleged assault. “Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling,” she writes. “I don’t remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me.”

In a statement later provided to People, Leder’s publishing house states, “We were all deeply disturbed to read Ms. Ratajkowski’s latest false statements to NY Magazine. While we understand that Ms. Ratajkowski no longer feels that the images represent her in the way she would like, and are probably detrimental to her career as an actress and celebrity, nonetheless, her recent accusations are based in fiction and not in fact, and the facts should matter."

The essay puts the accusation of sexual abuse into a wider context. The piece begins with a series of anecdotes relating to the photography business and the art world and the nature of photography itself. Titled “Buying Myself Back When does a model own her own image?”  the first-person account a wide-ranging critique of the photo industry.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1.  Astronomy Photographer of the Year Winners

Nicolas Lefaudeux has been named the the overall winner of this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for his astonishing tilt-shift image of the Andromeda Galaxy. “To obtain the tilt-shift effect, the photographer 3D-printed a part to hold the camera at an angle at the focus of the telescope. The blur created by the defocus at the edges of the sensor gives this illusion of closeness to Andromeda,” noted the contest, which is organized by the The Royal Observatory Greenwich.


2. Stuart Pauley and the Fires of 2020

Stuart Pauley has photographed more than a hundred wildfires over eight seasons, started the Terra Flamma project and published a book on wildfire photography. But even for him, 2020 has been a different experience, notes The Washington Post.  “The speed and severity at which these fires grew in the absence of strong winds is astonishing,” Pauley says. “It used to be 10,000 acres in a day was a lot, or even a 10,000-acre fire. Now I don’t even blink at a 100,000-acre fire,” he adds.


3. Luisa Dörr Captures Brazil's Female Rodeo Stars

“I grew up surrounded by animals and listening to country music – we went to agricultural fairs and part of my family was directly involved in farming, especially horse raising,” says Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr, whose series “In the American South” was recently exhibited in New York as part of the Latin American Foto Festival. The ongoing series explores the cowboy and rodeo culture in Dörr’s native country and focuses on the women who are increasingly taking center stage in that scene, noted AnOther.


4. Christie Lee Rogers's Underwater Surrealism

Among those who specialize in underwater photography, Christy Lee Rogers stands apart, noted CNN. Instead of immersing herself in water, Rogers follows its movement and that of her models by shooting from above. "I think what I do differently than most underwater photographers is that I am shooting from above the water and I'm using (the) refraction of lights," the Nashville-based photographer and filmmaker says. "So you get this sort of bending (effect)." The result is beautifully surreal, adds CNN.


5. Mohamed Bourouissa Wins Deutsche Borse Prize

The French Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa has won the £30,000 (about $40,000) Deutsche Börse photography prize for his ambitious installation “Free Trade,” which was first exhibited across an entire floor of a Monoprix supermarket as part of the Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival last year, noted The Guardian. Using photography, video, painting, text, drawing and sculpture, Bourouissa’s work reflects the precarious lives of the marginalized inhabitants of France’s major cities.
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From Stuart Pauley

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