Nadya Tolokonnikova, one of the Russian feminist activists who was jailed in 2012 for protesting Putin as a member of Pussy Riot, is backtracking on her photo shoot with Terry Richardson, saying she was unaware of his past when she and her husband agreed to be photographed.

On Wednesday, images of Tolokonnikova—along with Maria Alyokhina, the most internationally recognizable member of Pussy Riot—appeared on Richardson’s website, featuring the activist fully clothed and posing in various wacky dance formations. In a few of the photographs, Tolokonnikova’s husband Pyotr (above right) joined her, and the effect is that of two adults happy and clowning around—thankfully, nothing like Richardson’s signature, creepy-male-gaze flicks of women in various states of undress, other than his stereotypical high-contrast, overlit background. But when confronted about her decision to pose for Richardson after posting the photos on Facebook, she said she was unaware about his past accusations of sexual assault and intimidation, according to Death and Taxes. (The Facebook post now appears to have been deleted from Tolokonnikova’s page.)

Tolokonnikova initially wrote (via Google translate via Death and Taxes):

I met with Terry Richardson and now found out that it is not in vain it is appreciated – it really was one of the most powerful of photographers with whom I in my tender age of twenty-five have met. Terry listens to Dead Kennedys, while shooting Holiday In Cambodia played.

Later, after her followers began confronting her about Richardson’s allegations of being a sexually abusive pervert, she backtracked, saying she “didn’t know about Terry Richardson’s sins”:

“Visiting guests [were] invited to be photographed—I did it. Try not to miss opportunities to learn from the experience of professionals, somehow.”

It’s pretty likely Tolokonnikova didn’t know about Richardson’s past—she speaks very little English, for one, and even though Richardson still manages to land campaigns for global brands, his allegedly predatory nature seems to be an open secret the fashion industry overlooks time and again. (Just yesterday, Lady Gaga posted a photo of herself and Richardson with the caption “Me and my buddy!” A host of cognizant fans left disapproving comments, pointing to their disappointment that she continues to engage with and cosign the photographer.)

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But still, one wonders who “invited” Tolokonnikova, and where; more particularly, why her PR or whomever may have been guiding her through this most recent press tour didn’t happen to mention that a shoot with Terry Richardson would cast a shadow on her very righteous efforts. He may indeed be powerful—but the unwillingness of his employers and peers to speak up is the reason he remains that way.

[UPDATE: Tolokonnikova tells Buzzfeed, “It wasn’t actually the fault of any PR person or anyone else’s fault, and I hate qualified apologies, this is a pure apology to any women effected [sic] and I take all the blame.... I didn’t consult with anyone or do my research, we just went to a photo shoot on our own. Dumb.” And: “I wouldn’t participate in photoshoot if I knew about it.”]


Contact the author at julianne@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty