Fashion photographer Bruce Weber is the subject of a new sexual misconduct lawsuit filed in federal court Friday. Five male models are represented in the suit, which comes more than a year after Lisa Bloom, the attorney for the plaintiffs, filed a sexual harassment case against Weber on behalf of model Jason Boyce, who alleges Weber sexually assaulted him during a 2014 photo shoot. Weber has not responded publicly to the suit filed Friday; Vox has reached out for comment. The photographer has previously denied the accusations from Boyce as well as several other men.
“The new case was filed under the federal sex trafficking law, which has recently been interpreted to prohibit ‘casting couch’ behavior in which a powerful person sexually exploits a vulnerable job applicant for his own sexual gratification,” Bloom said in a statement. “That law has a ten year statute of limitations, so it opens the door for additional victims to step forward and seek justice.”
The plaintiffs are identified in the complaint by their initials only. Two reside in California, one in Minnesota, and one in Florida. A fifth plaintiff lives in the Netherlands. The men accuse Weber of groping their genitals during photo shoots for French Vogue and Abercrombie & Fitch as well as during private shoots or test shoots. The alleged incidents took place from 2008 to 2011.
The models say that Weber, long regarded as one of the most influential photographers in the fashion industry, encouraged them to take part in “breathing exercises” at these shoots, during which he groped their genitals. They allege that Weber insinuated that if they complied with the “molestation,” as the suit terms it, he would give them more work and boost their careers.
A model identified as B.A. alleges that while Weber shot him for an Abercrombie & Fitch campaign in 2009, the photographer threatened to give away his job to another model if he didn’t comply with the “breathing exercise.” The model says he froze when Weber groped him, and that Weber ultimately did not feature him in the A&F campaign.
After the shoot, B.A. says Weber would phone him to request that he “send him pictures of himself in his underwear.” He says Weber would also ask questions such as, “Do you swim naked in the pool?” and, “How many girls are you having sex with?” He alleges that Weber’s breathing would become heavy during the calls.
A model identified as K.B. accuses Weber of fondling his genitals during a 2008 A&F shoot and telling him, “Just relax and you’ll go far in this industry.” K.B. was featured prominently in the Abercrombie & Fitch campaign, he says.
The lawsuit also accuses Weber of fondling a model during “breathing exercises” at the photographer’s properties in Gold Beach, Oregon, and Montauk, New York. Weber was the subject of a New York Times exposé in January in which several men accused him and famed photographer Mario Testino of sexually exploiting him. Another model, Parker Hurley, wrote an essay for Racked in February accusing Weber of attempting to fondle him. Weber has denied all these allegations.
These stories have arisen during the #MeToo era that began with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations in the New York Times and the New Yorker of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and has spread across a number of industries, from fashion to food service.
The amount of compensatory damages and punitive damages sought by the plaintiffs in the suit filed Friday has not been specified.
“We look forward to proving our clients’ cases at trial,” Bloom said in a statement.
She is asking any potential witnesses to contact her firm.
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