TERRY RICHARDSON’s LIFE STORY
Ages FIVE to NINE
OLIVIER ZAHM — Let’s start with your childhood in Paris, Terry. Your parents lived there for two or three years, right?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Let me see. We moved to Paris when I was nine or 10 months old, and then when I was four years old we moved back to New York, so, yeah, we lived there for three years. French was actually my first language, but I forgot it all because in New York I went to a public school where they didn’t ever teach French. I went to nursery school in Paris and I loved “Nounours”… the french TV show for kids with the famous teddy bears.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Why did your parents move back to New York?
TERRY RICHARDSON — I guess my dad just wanted to work back in New York again. He’d established his reputation in Paris and he figured that he might be able to make money in American advertising. After working for French Vogue he thought he’d be able to work for American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Plus, he was a New Yorker; he probably just wanted to go home.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So working in Paris gave your father a kind of credibility, then.
TERRY RICHARDSON — I think so. He went to Paris knowing he’d be able to take the kind of pictures he couldn’t take in America.He had a lot more freedom, especially with French Vogue. Plus, he shot in new locations and got new inspirations; it was a whole different trip. Instead of being just a Manhattan fashion photographer with a studio, he could travel around Europe taking pictures. His pictures were very cinematic. He was obsessed by the European films of Antonioni, Godard, and Serge Bourguignon, like Sundays and Cybele, for example. So going to Paris and Milan was something that was really exciting for him.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did your parents keep their apartment in New York while they lived in Paris?
TERRY RICHARDSON — No, when we returned to Paris they got an apartment in Gramercy Park. I guess my dad either had a studio of his own or shared one. He loved Gramercy Park and actually lived in the Gramercy Park Hotel for years when he was older. But that’s a story I’ll tell later. Hold on — when we first moved back to New York we actually lived in a penthouse with a big terrace on Jane Street in the West Village. The building is still there. When my folks split up my dad moved to Gramercy Park. I went to a regular school where they made fun of me because I spoke with a French accent. But I soon learned to speak with an American accent. Anyway, my mom was helping out and my dad was becoming really successful, shooting for a lot of magazines, getting a lot of advertising jobs, and so on. He made a short film and was considering doing some other directing, and maybe some commercials.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I didn’t know he made a short film.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yes. It was a very cinéma vérité, day-in-a-life type thing he made with one of his favorite models, Donna Mitchell. It opens with her waking up in the morning with her lover, and then it just kind of follows whatever happens. They have breakfast, make love, and then go out in the street. I actually never saw it because it was lost; my dad only told me about it. But yeah, we were back living in New York. I first went to a bilingual Montessori school because I could speak French as well as English. They called my dad one day and said, “When your son walks through the hall in his cowboy boots he makes a lot of noise and disturbs the classes. Can you please tell him not to wear them?” And my dad said, “He’ll wear whatever the fuck he wants to wear. Go fuck yourself.” [Laughs] So they threw me out of the school for wearing cowboy boots. I had a suede fringe jacket and a sheepskin jacket and long hair. Very chic. Everyone thought I was a little girl. It was like, “What a beautiful little daughter you have!” And I’d be like, “But I’m a boy!” My hair was really long and straight and bushy. I was a little rock and roll kid.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So that would have been around 1969. What was the West Village like back then?
TERRY RICHARDSON — It was beautiful. There was the whole Bleecker Street scene, for one thing.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You mean the folk scene with Bob Dylan, and all the jazz clubs?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Well, that was all more of an early ’60s thing. By ’69 Dylan had gone electric, The Beatles had already played Shea Stadium … my mom actually saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium in ’65, when she was pregnant with me. So maybe I saw them too! A band called The Cyrkle, who were friends of my mom, opened up for them. They had a hit song called “Red Rubber Ball.” [Sings] And then there was the Warhol scene. It was all very psychedelic, with all the drugs. And the Filmore East — that whole thing was going on.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Were your parents part of Warhol’s Factory scene?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Well, I don’t think they were Warhol regulars, but they went to parties and nightclubs a lot. There was the St. Mark’s scene. Jerry Schatzberg had a club there. Anyway, my dad was working a lot and one day Joan Juliet Buck called and told him that she was sending over a model she thought he just had to meet. It turned out to be Anjelica Huston, who was only 17. My dad did a few shoots with her, and pretty soon they fell in love and started having an affair.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Wow, 17 years old — that’s serious. Illegal, even! [Laughs]
TERRY RICHARDSON — Hey, it was the ’60s! And Anjelica was probably almost 18. It wasn’t like she’d just turned 17. Anyway, my dad was in love! He finaly told my mom he was going to move in with her. It was really intense and sad. My mom pleaded with him not to leave but he did anyway. It’s not that she was staying alone at home. She was sexy, she knew everybody and she partied a lot. I remember Jimi Hendrix coming over and I also remember seeing my mom making out with Kris Kristofferson on the fire escape. You know, he’s the musician-turned-actor who wrote “Me and Bobby McGee” for Janis Joplin. [Sings] He was a Rhodes Scholar, an intellectual English-major kind of guy. Then he wrote this successful song and went to Nashville and made a bunch of records. He also acted in films, like Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which he played Billy the Kid. He’s still around. So, I guess after my dad left, my mom had lovers, and all that.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was your dad’s leaving traumatic for her?
TERRY RICHARDSON — I think she was destroyed. She pleaded with him. You know — go have an affair, have some fun, whatever. But don’t leave; don’t break the family! But my dad didn’t want to come back.My mom was really upset. She had a hard time.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Why did he decide to leave her?
TERRY RICHARDSON — I think that he just genuinely fell in love with her. Maybe it had also something do with Anjelica’s father being the famous John Huston, and my dad wanting to direct films, I don’t know. He also loved to photograph her all the time. They moved into the apartment in Gramercy Park, while my mom left New York in 1970 and moved up to Woodstock, just to get away from the city and not have to deal with the system or fashion anymore. Be a hippy, grow out her armpit hair, get a job as a waitress in a health-food restaurant. [Laughs] She was like, “Enough of this fucking city. New York is crazy — I don’t need to live here anymore. I’m going to Woodstock, smoke weed, and live with a bunch of mellow people who don’t want to live in the rat race.” She brought me up there with her. I was five or five and a half. Sometimes I visited my dad and Anjelica in New York on weekends and sometimes they came up to Woodstock. She was modeling a lot and he was traveling around taking pictures. Both of them were enjoying very successful careers.
OLIVIER ZAHM — How was your life in Woodstock for your mother far from New York?
TERRY RICHARDSON — My mom was hanging out there, working and taking pictures. People like Bob Dylan, The Band with Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson, Todd Rundgren, and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were living around there. It was a big music scene. Then one day at a flea market or someplace she met a guy named Jackie Lomax, who was the first musician ever signed to Apple Records. They fell in love and moved in together. He was recording at Albert Grossman’s Bearsville studio in Woodstock. Jackie was from Liverpool; he was part of the whole Liverpool Mersey Beat scene that the Beatles came out of. He was in a band called The Undertakers. They played at The Cavern and went over and played in Hamburg. Jackie was great looking and a really talented musician. George Harrison signed him to Apple and his first record for that label is really great. Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Nicky Hopkins, and Billy Preston — the Who’s Who of the ’60s London rock scene — played on it. Jackie and George wrote a song called Sour Milk Sea for it, and it was a bit of a hit. The album even got played in America. But Apple fell apart when the Beatles broke up so the album only went so far. Jackie played in a blues band called Heavy Jelly for a while, but then he got the deal with Warner Brothers and decided to record in Woodstock. He’s a great guy. Super-nice. Gentle. He never became really famous but he always had the respect of his peers. It almost happened for him, but then it didn’t. That’s hard to deal with — when success is so close but never arrives.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Especially when you’re a good musician and you see people without talent making it.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Absolutely. Anyway, people would go up to Woodstock and say how great it was. People stuck around and created a whole scene up there. You’d go to The Joyous Lake or one of those cafes at night and there’d be a bunch of musicians jamming.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So it wasn’t like your mom moved to the middle of nowhere.
TERRY RICHARDSON — No, there was a real scene. And there was the same shit going on: Total excess. People having affairs, sleeping around, drinking and taking lots of drugs.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did your mom have an affair with Hendrix?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah. When I was around 13 my friends and I would be getting stoned on weed in my room and my mom would come in and point to the poster of Hendrix I had on my wall and ask my friends, “Hey, did Terry ever tell you what I said about Jimi?” And I’d be like, “Oh, no! Don’t tell them that!” And she’d say, “Yeah, he was hung like this! Huge!” And I’d be really embarrassed. She said he was really packin’! But she had a lot of lovers. She was just a cool fucking groovy lady. They all called having sex “balling.” You know, “Let’s ball!” “I want to ball you” was a real ’60s phrase. I don’t know, I guess it meant rolling around like a ball. Anyway, I lived up in Woodstock for about three years. My mom married Jackie and she was super-happy. I was going to school, hanging out, running around with my friends. My dad moved to London with Anjelica. But you know what’s weird is — I have to get into my abandonment issue a little bit here! — I remember that I never had a fucking babysitter when I was a kid. Never. Ever. And we lived in this fucking house in the woods, which is very scary for a child. I’m still scared in the woods at night. [Laughs] Like, if I’m up in the country and I have to take out the garbage at night or something, I’ll run and do it! When I get home in the night, I park the car and run to the house. I still get scared in the woods. I get scared walking my dog at night. It’s really weird, but I still have a fear of the fucking dark, of the unknown and stuff. It’s probably why I spend so much time in my apartment — I feel safe there. New York is really safe now. But at my mom’s place recently I woke up thinking someone was trying to climb in the window and I had nightmares the rest of the night. I was sleeping on the couch and I heard a sound outside — maybe it was a dog or a raccoon — and I woke up with a start. Really frightened. New York is safe because there are so many people everywhere. The monster can’t get you here. The boogieman can’t get you! [Laughs] The only demons that can get you are your own. That’s what happens here in New York — your inner monster eats you up! So, anyway, I remember my mom and Jackie would be going out, laughing and having fun, and I’d be screaming, “No! Don’t leave me. No! No!” They’d all be partying, drinking and taking drugs, and they’d leave me screaming in the fucking house. They did it to me all the time, and I still have no fucking idea why they did, why they never got me a babysitter. I mean, I’m in the fucking woods, hearing these branches scratching on the walls. And there were all these stories about the guy who escaped from the mental institution, how he broke into a home and cut up all the little children, hung them upside down and cut their fingers and toes. You’d hear these stories from older kids about escaped lunatics and monsters and child-killers. I would be fucking terrified! [Laughs] And this happened to me over and over again. I’d be hysterical, jumping at shadows, screaming, and crying myself to sleep.
OLIVIER ZAHM — And probably spending the day in anticipation of the fear you would feel at night.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah, sure. I mean, we all have some sort of abandonment issue, but I had such a deep, intense, crazy fear of them going out and leaving me alone. They never hired someone to stay with me, and I never understood why. I guess they just figured, “Oh, he’ll be fine.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — I guess that was all part of the late ’60s, early ’70s way of thinking. No one would do that to a child today.
TERRY RICHARDSON — No, they wouldn’t. Thinking that your child is an equal, and can be treated like an adult, is such bullshit. I had a hard time with my stepfather. I know my real dad had a lot of dark moods and things when he was living with Anjelica, and there was a lot of heaviness, but he did kind of keep it together. Having a woman around stabilized him a bit. I remember going to London to spend a summer with him and Anjelica. I’d wake up around noon every day and hear them having sex, which is a very strange thing for a child of seven or eight. They did it every day and I’d sit there hearing them do it, which was very fucking strange, you know? I’m not a parent, so I don’t know how you work these things out, but on days they weren’t up early to go off to work they’d sleep in and then make love before they got up, and I’d have to wait until they were finished before we could start the day. And at night sometimes they’d leave me alone in the fucking apartment by Hyde Park and I’d be shaking and staring at shadows. It was the same fucking thing that happened in Woodstock. I actually started shitting in my underwear! [Laughs] I was very anal-retentive when I was young. I’d hold it in, hold it in! I’d hold my shit in, and then at night I’d shit in my underwear. I mean, if you hold your shit in for three days eventually the body is just going to push it out. Anal retention — Freud has a whole thing about that. I remember in Morocco one time in ’68 or ’69, the time my dad smoked so much hash he passed out in the street, I literally took shits all around the hotel. It got so bad I’d just stop and take a dump anywhere. At my dad’s place in London I’d wake up at night and have a shit in my underwear. The first few times I just threw my underwear out the sixth floor window! [Laughs] But then I became worried that someone might see it, so instead I’d shit in my underwear and stick it in a drawer! [Laughs] And just leave it there! I was there for maybe three weeks, and I just left it there! When Anjelica came to visit us in Woodstock not too long afterwards, she said, “After you left there was this strange disgusting smell in the apartment.” [Laughs] “We thought maybe an animal had died! We had fumigators come in, but that didn’t work. Finally, I opened the drawer and found all your underwear!” I’ll have to ask my therapist about that next week. [Laughs] Actually, maybe I’ll discuss it with all three of them! [Laughs] I was really embarrassed that Anjelica discussed it with my mother right in front of me. Humiliated by two women. Emasculating little Terry. [Laughs] It was all pretty traumatic.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s got something to do with holding your emotions in, right?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah. I think that as a child, to be able to express your emotions, you have to be sure your parents really love you. If you’re not sure of that, you bundle your emotions up inside, because you think your parents aren’t listening to you anyway. Later you can become self-destructive because you think that no one will ever love you. You think that if you’re a mess, or if you make yourself a mess, people will have to take care of you, they will have to love you. It’s a way to get the attention you didn’t get as a child, a way to stay like a baby, a way to force people to take care of you as they would take care of a baby who can’t control himself. — That’s the story of my life. [Laughs] To be taken care of. I still hold my emotions in. As a child I threw tantrums and screamed a lot. I was violent and fought all the time. I stole candy.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You do these things to draw your parent’s attention to yourself. It couldn’t have been easy for you. But at the same time, wasn’t there happiness, too?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Sure. I had a lot of fun. I lived in a beautiful place. I had some great friends.
OLIVIER ZAHM — And your father and your mother enjoyed their lives.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Oh yeah. When my father’s career was going well we ate at nice places, like Mr. Chow. When I was six years old I had a beautiful Sony color TV in my room. But when we moved my mom sold it. I demanded that she give me the money for it, but she said that she paid the bills around the place so the money from the sale was hers. I was like, “Dad bought me that TV! I want the fucking money!” But, yeah, my dad bought me a lot of nice things. And my mom was always involved in cool little scenes. Around ’72 we went out to San Francisco, and we lived in Sausalito for a time while Jackie was working in London. We hung around with the band, Blood Sweat and Tears. It was great. My parents always took me to parties, starting when I was about eight or nine. I’d either be left home screaming or taken to a party to fall asleep in a bedroom while everyone was getting high. I learned to roll joints at a very young age. I guess people still do that, right? Take their kids along to parties?
OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, but people don’t usually take their children to parties with sex and drugs these days! [Laughs]
TERRY RICHARDSON — No, I guess not. I also went to John Huston’s house in Ireland one Christmas. I remember they had foxhunts. But I don’t think my dad and John Huston actually got along all that great.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I heard John Huston could be dictatorial.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah, a little nasty sometimes — and kind of macho and tough. But Anjelica was great. She was like my older sister or something, always buying me presents. I was five or six and she was 19 or 20 — super-sweet, and so nice. She and my mom became good friends later on. I guess they had a strong connection — that of surviving a relationship with my father! [Laughs]
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you and your mom and Jackie eventually moved to London, right?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah. Jackie got a record deal with a band called Badger. Tony Kaye, the original keyboard player in Yes, was in it. It was a great band. Roy Dyke and Kim Gardner were also in it. So we all went over to London to live while Jackie was recording. Allen Toussaint from New Orleans produced the record and wrote all the horn arrangements; he produced The Band at one point. The record was called White Lady, a nickname for cocaine, and it had a nice illustration on the cover. It’s a great fucking record. We rented a house in Hampton Court, close to the castle of Henry The Eighth. I went to school in London. There was one American kid and one black kid. I fought all the time, hung out with these kids, smashing windows … We were delinquents. We just vandalized, smashed stuff up. We threw bricks through people’s windows, people’s cars … I got into smashing things up.
OLIVIER ZAHM — [Laughs] So this was kind of pre-punk.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah, pre-punk. We were like fucking eight years old, and just so fucking agro. I started playing soccer — got into the whole English thing. Jackie had three daughters from when he was a young guy in Liverpool. They were great and they became like sisters to me. Anyway, he ended up going back to England to record and tour with Badger. Electric Light Orchestra used to open for them. But Badger kind of fell apart, as bands often do. All this time I still saw my real dad once in a while. I’d fly to New York and stay with him. He was working, keeping it together. He’d fly over to London and visit me. He stayed at Blakes Hotel. So we stayed in touch — nothing too crazy at this point. But when he was getting set to leave he’d always say, “I’m your father! Jackie’s not your father!” One time I actually called Jackie “Dad,” and I felt badly afterwards. Like, “Oh, sorry.” It was kind of a tender moment. But when he would try and discipline me I’d say, “You’re not my real father. Don’t tell me what to do.” It must be hard for stepfathers at times, especially if the real fathers are like mine was.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you always called your stepfather “Jackie.”
TERRY RICHARDSON — Yeah, that was fine with him.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Were you happy as a boy living in London?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Well, I had fun, but I lived in Woodstock for about four years and I made great friends there. It was hard to leave them. And the kids in London made fun of me because I was American. You know, Yankee Doodle Dandy. You stand out when you’re the only American kid in the whole school. But I also got a lot of attention. My dad had taken me to see all these Bruce Lee movies. I was obsessed with Kung Fu and I’d also seen Mean Streets and other films. The English kids thought it was cool that I’d seen this stuff. My dad took me to see a lot of foreign films, too — Ingmar Bergman films and French films by people like Claude Chabrol. He would take me to see a Kung Fu movie on 42nd Street one day and something with subtitles the next. We’d alternate back and forth. I saw The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie when I was eight years old. I saw all the Fred Williamson Blaxplotation movies. Movies with a lot of sex and violence — I loved those when I was little.
OLIVIER ZAHM — B-Movies of the ’70s, in other words.
TERRY RICHARDSON — Exactly. So anyway, when my dad came to London we’d eat out at Mr. Chow. Everything was cool. Eventually Jackie’s band broke up and we moved back to Woodstock. As soon as we moved, he got a record deal with Capitol and was planning to record in California. He was playing a kind of funky white Soul music.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was it too experimental for radio?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Just not pop enough. Or not hard rock enough. And if you don’t get played on the radio in America, you’re fucked. His band would always break up. So it was hard for him. Every time you get a record contract you think, “This is it. This is going to work.” But it never happened, just never clicked. Then you get dropped from the label. Anyway, in 1974 we ended up buying a Volks-wagen hippie van and driving out to California. It was great. We went to the Grand Canyon, we camped out and barbecued and swam. We really saw America and that was really cool. Took us three weeks. It was amazing. My mom had been taking pictures all along. I have a lot of the original prints. She’s such a good fucking photographer. Her pictures are always beautiful cropped. And they’re human pictures. My dad’s were always fashion pictures — dark and moody, but still fashion. My mom’s pictures were life pictures — human, journalistic, free, and loose: snapshots in a weird way. She photographed our whole trip out to California. We parked at Zuma Beach and Jackie and I were so excited we ran into the ocean with all our clothes on! [Laughs] Imagine it: 1974, Malibu, August, the sun, the golden light. It was so exciting and beautiful. Hotel California. It was paradise. We swam every day. People threw parties. We rented an apartment in Hollywood — in the Villa Valentino, the apartment buildings Rudolph Valentino had built for his guests. It was a 1920s Spanish style building — wooden beams, fountains everywhere, Spanish tiles. Old Hollywood. It was beautiful. All the apartments were different. Our first apartment had two floors. There was a Marlboro Man mural on the wall of the staircase. I thought, “How cool: a cowboy on the wall!” A Playboy Playmate lived in one of the other apartments, and there were athletes, a make-up artist, actors, the actress who was in the film Midnight Express, and another one named Kathy Yates. Everyone was cool and partied together. For one party all the men dressed as women and all the women dressed as men and my mom photographed the whole thing. It was an amazing scene — not like a family, really, but everyone was like buddies. I could walk into anyone’s apartment. It was a magical time. There was a beautiful courtyard with fountains and bricks and flowers and moss. The building is still there. Then I started going to school. I had just turned nine. My dad was living in New York. He wasn’t with Anjelica, but he was keeping it pretty together. Jackie was recording. My mom was working as a stylist. She worked with Albert Watson and Nat Norman. She did album covers, fashion, and magazines — working every day. She did the very first Playgirl magazine shoot; she worked for Rolling Stone; she shot a lot of catalogs — money jobs. I did some modeling. I was in fourth grade, playing soccer, making friends. But I was violent and fought a lot. I was hyper and I threw tantrums. My father would come out and I’d stay with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Chateau Marmont. I remember celebrating New Year’s Eve with him. At that point he was still working and keeping it together. My mom was doing good. Jackie’s new record was coming out. Everything was cool.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What did stop this period of your life?
TERRY RICHARDSON — Well, I was violent all the time — angry and smashing things. So my mom decided to sent me to a psychiatrist twice a week, once by myself and once as part of a group of kids. One day I was waiting for my mom to pick me up afterwards and when she didn’t show up I got a really weird feeling. I waited and waited and finally a woman friend of our family named Vicky showed up and told me my mom had been in an accident, but that it was OK, my mom was going to be OK. We went to a movie and I stayed at her place that night. It turns out my mom was rear-ended by a Pacific Bell telephone truck doing about 80 miles an hour as she pulled out onto the freeway. She was driving a little Volkswagen Beetle and this fucking truck just rammed into her and totaled the car. Put her in a coma…
OLIVIER ZAHM —Thanks a lot for this, Terry.
TERRY RICHARDSON — You’re very welcome, Olivier. How much do I owe you? [Laughs]
[TO BE CONTINUED]
[Table of contents]
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John McWhinnieRead the article
Marike Thunder NussRead the article
Adam McEwenRead the article
Hudson FurnitureRead the article
Ryan McGinnessRead the article
Brigid BerlinRead the article
Maria CornejoRead the article
BEST of the SEASONRead the article
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by Olivier Zahm
by Olivier Zahm
by Olivier Zahm
by Olivier Zahm and Dash Snow
by Shamim Momin
by Miltos Manetas
Maryna, Magdalena, Paz, Karmen, and Anne
by Mario Sorrenti
by David Lynch
by Ellen von Unwerth, Magnus Unnar, Mark Borthwick, Vanna Sorrenti, Theo Wenner
A New GenerationRead the article
Vincent Darré & Elie Top
by Max Farago
by Ari Marcopolous
Cairo Dezaldo Marcopoulos
by Ari Marcopolous
by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
by Mario Sorrenti
by Bernard-Henri Levy
by Steven Klein
by Noritoshi Hirakawa
by Glenn O'Brien
by Olivier Zahm
Terry Richardson’s Life Story Episode 2
by Olivier Zahm
by Dash Snow
A taste of the Spring Summer 2009 collections
by Camille Bidault-Waddington
by Paola Kudaki
by Patrick Demarchelier
by Terry Richardson and Olivier Zahm
by Leigh Ledare