Popular Melbourne music photographer, Jack Stafford, has admitted to being an ‘abuser’, after more than 70 female clients came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. Update 17/7: 105 women have now come forward with experiences of alleged inappropriate behaviour committed by Stafford.
Stafford Operating under the online handle, @Re._stacks, the 29-year old photographer was described as an ‘Instagram sensation’, however he’s flagged his departure from the photo and music industry for his pattern of inappropriate behaviour.
In a 3300-word confession and apology, published on July 13, Stafford admits to exposing himself, speaking inappropriately about sex, pressuring subjects into nude shoots, and sharing inappropriate images with third parties.
‘I abused my power. And have displayed pure misogyny in more than just my professional career but also in my personal life, with conversation and other actions to people who tried and failed to stop me. This wasn’t their fault,’ he wrote. ‘I have shared things that were not mine to share. Under the cover of and the innocence of, its ‘art’ and or my photo though I must stress I never did this in a derogatory way. Regardless this wasn’t and never is okay.’
Allegations began surfacing after Brisbane musician Jaguar Jonze, AKA Deena Lynch, published a post on Instagram raising awareness about sexual abuse and harassment in the music industry. In the post, she highlighted her experience of sexual abuse by two unnamed producers, and references ‘stories about a particular male photographer who works in the industry’.
‘It is sad that in my time in the industry, I’ve come across many predators who still abuse their place of power or profile to manipulate the trust people, especially young female musicians, have given to them,’ she wrote in the post, later stating that ‘if you have been affected by a similar story and need a space to land in this sometimes terrifying industry – please reach out to me’
In less than a day over 20 women came forward with their own experiences with the unnamed photographer, she said in a second post.
Stafford, who recently gained publicity for his popular Coronavirus Skype portrait series with 120 established local musicians, ousted himself on Instagram as the unnamed photographer. ‘I will be cancelling myself,’ he said.
‘I hate knowing I’ve caused hurt to people who I’ve wanted to work with for very genuine and honest reasons,’ Stafford said via his now-deleted Instagram account. According to music publication, Tone Deaf, he admits to frequently using the word ‘hot’ during photo shoots, and claims he pressured subjects toward naked of half-naked shoots under the pretence of ‘encouragement towards the nature of the art’.
Numerous clients informed the photographer they ‘never’ felt comfortable working with him, and Stafford has now committed to ‘engage in therapy and deep reading around the topics of assault’. After his initial confession, scores more women affected by Stafford’s alleged lewd behaviour came forward, with Lynch telling Fairfax Media the tally sits at 70.
‘I’m removing myself from the society I was in to figure these things out and get the help needed and I will not return to the photography world ever,’ Stafford wrote in his 3000-word apology. ‘And I ask for the time to do this. I would also like to note I have started to begin wiping my hard drives and all dropbox folders of shoots created over my time as a photographer and that they will be permanently deleted, no ones photo will ever be misused. As this has financially crushed me, I will endeavour to sell all my equipment and pay back any outstanding 50 percent booking fees, of which most of these artists and I have already been in contact.’
While Stafford claims some allegations posted by Lynch are ‘a little out of context’, he admits ‘the overall aura, the point people are trying to make is still there’.
This isn’t the first time, and won’t likely be the last, a fashion/portrait photographer has been accused of sexual misconduct during a photo shoot. In early 2018, at the height of the broader #MeToo movement, fashion magazines cut ties with high profile fashion photographers Terry Richardson, Bruce Weber, and Mario Testino over allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour.