For independent magazine Hercules, deciding to work again with photographer Bruce Weber came down to a simple question of loyalty.
“Of course we considered not,” David Vivirido, cofounder and co-editor in chief of the men’s fashion magazine, told WWD of working with Weber recently for the 25th issue, which is out next week. “When you read [negative] articles about your contributors, you have to put it on the scale, if it’s someone who’s been supporting you and loyal to you, and then you have to make a decision.”
Vivirido, a native of Spain, where he started Hercules almost 13 years ago with co-editor Francesco Sourigues, said loyalty to Weber tipped the scale in favor of work. He noted that the photographer has been slowly working more in recent months, less than a year after more than a dozen male models accused him in a New York Times article and an individual lawsuit of sexual misconduct. Many of the accusations among the men were similar, involving Weber calling them to private photography sessions or off-set meetings and initiating a hands-on breathing exercise that tended to move toward the models’ genitals, groping without consent and coerced nude photographs involving a sense by the models that refusing would mean no more work. Some magazines and brands were quick to distance themselves from Weber at the start of the year given the numerous claims.
Weber — who also wrote briefly on a theme of loyalty in an introduction to his Hercules shoot — has flatly denied all of the accusations and that seems to have been good enough for Vivirido. Speaking on behalf of the magazine as a whole, he alluded to a cultural moment of “moral censorship” that needs be pushed back on and the idea of “different perceptions” of actions on a photo shoot or styling session.
“We live in a time when everyone likes to play judge and jury at the same time and accusations are simply accusations, that’s what they are,” the editor and stylist explained. “It seems like now with social media, it’s almost like going back to the Middle Ages — you’re always [assumed] guilty and there’s no way to defend yourself. I’m not saying that the accusations are true or not, because it’s not our position to do that.”
But the idea that individuals or industries can work with whomever they choose because of “art” without some degree of public blowback, given the ongoing momentum of #MeToo, seems hopeful, at best. More powerful men than Weber have been fired and branded as cultural pariahs over serious accusations of harassment and assault (although Bill Cosby, so far, is the only one to be tried and sentenced for one of his allegedly many crimes against women), kicked off by multiple high-profile accusations against Harvey Weinstein and fully on exhibit Thursday at the controversial hearings over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. While sexual crimes are certainly nothing new, and the accusations against Weber are far from as extreme as those against other high-profile men, the number of allegations that have been corroborated over time has only increased the public’s willingness to believe accusers.
Still, to Vivirido, this is an era when “anyone could just come up with a story about any of us” and he felt something of an obligation to support Weber, since the photographer first worked with the magazine in 2016, before any of the allegations against him were public. But a big part of Vivirido’s decision to work with Weber relates to a perception that the accusations don’t reach a level of seriousness that made it necessary to cut ties with the photographer, who’s a longtime inspiration and aesthetic idol for Vivirido and Hercules.
Of what Weber is being accused of, Vivirido said it should be investigated but, “of course, it’s not the same as someone accused of something like [rape].” He added another “of course” when asked if this perceived lack of severity in the accusations was part of the decision to work with Weber again, actually in an extended capacity. Weber’s photographs make up about 40 pages of the new issue and the cover.
At any rate, Vivirido stressed that Weber and his team worked with an “overwhelming” level of professionalism on set. While the misconduct accusations against Weber stem entirely from private sessions and meetings, Vivirido said private work “is not something we can comment on.” He suggested, “Perhaps those are the [shoots] that shouldn’t be happening.”
Vivirido seems far from an outlier in his decision to work with Weber again. He said all of the brands that appear in the shoot knew where their clothes were headed and who would be photographing them — he got no push back on requests. The mix of European and American brands included in Weber’s shoot are Margaret Howell, James Perse, Prada, Hanes, Levi’s, Agnès b., Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, Helmut Lang, Balenciaga, Dior Homme, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Marni, Phillip Lim and Jil Sander, among others. And the issue, including 100 limited hardcover copies, is being sold exclusively at Carla Sozzani’s 10 Corso Como.
Even with tacit support from the industry, Vivirido isn’t expecting everyone to like the decision to work with Weber again, but maybe he’s courting controversy a bit. The last time he worked with Weber was for the fall 2017 issue, which was still available when the accusations were made public. “Overnight, everything sold out,” he said.
For More, See: