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Pussy Riot Member Apologizes For Terry Richardson Photo Shoot

Nadya Tolokonnikova called the decision "dumb," telling BuzzFeed News she wouldn’t have worked with “Uncle Terry” if she’d known about his history. (This story has been updated with new comments from Tolokonnikova.)

Last updated on June 18, 2015, at 11:40 p.m. ET

Posted on June 18, 2015, at 7:02 p.m. ET

Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that visiting Terry Richardson's studio for a recent photo shoot was "dumb," expressing regret that she didn't know beforehand about Richardson's allegedly predatory past.

When asked about the provenance of the photo shoot — namely who initiated the meeting — Tolokonnikova said via email that "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," she continued. "Dumb."

On Tuesday, Richardson posted 13 photos of Tolokonnikova at his studio — eight of her by herself and five of her and her husband. Not long after, Tolokonnikova's followers began asking the 25-year-old activist for an explanation.

Tolokonnikova is best known for serving two years in prison after Pussy Riot's February 2012 cathedral protest in Moscow. The ensuing courtroom drama turned the relatively unknown punk collective into an international symbol of anti-Putin activism. (Despite reports from early last year that she's no longer part of Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova does still identify as a member of the group.) Terry Richardson is best known for his "celebrity sleaze" style and for allegedly coercing young models into performing sexual acts on the job. And yet Tolokonnikova, a feminist, proudly posted Richardson's images of her on her Facebook page.

Jamie Peck, a former model and the first woman to speak publicly and at length about Richardson's alleged behavior, first pointed out the photos of Tolokonnikova in a piece for Death+Taxes on Wednesday.

"I don't have enough information yet to make any sort of judgment call but I'm anxious to hear her explanation," Peck wrote. "Hopefully we're not looking at pictures of the moment Nadya's enjoyment of the spotlight finally overtook her political agenda."

But a few hours after Death+Taxes posted Peck's essay to its Facebook page, Tolokonnikova left a comment: "hey, guys, I really didn't know about Terry's sins when I came to him." (She also deleted the photos she had earlier posted.) On Thursday, Peck responded that she has "no reason not to believe her."

When BuzzFeed News reached out to Tolokonnikova on Thursday, she initially said she could only "repeat what I wrote on Facebook as a comment — I really didn't know about allegations against Terry when I visited his studio."

Tolokonnikova's response is similar to what others have said about working with Richardson. Last year, a spokesman for the designer Roberto Cavalli told BuzzFeed News that Cavalli's "company worked with Terry Richardson for his artistic and creative value and we are unaware about his private activities." When actor Alan Cumming posted a photo of him and Richardson on Twitter, he later apologized; "I had absolutely no idea about the controversy and feel bad for not having been appraised of it," he tweeted (and then deleted).

When pressed as to whether she regretted allowing Richardson to photograph her, Tolokonnikova emailed: "I wouldn't participate in photoshoot if I knew about it."

"Uncle Terry," who's never been charged with a crime, has faced allegations surrounding professional misconduct since 2010. The most recent woman to speak out against Richardson did so in June 2014, shortly after Richardson was profiled in New York magazine. That same year, a handful of major companies and magazines that previously employed Richardson told BuzzFeed News they would no longer work with him. Since last summer, his visibility in the U.S. fashion industry has steadily declined.

Vice — a former Richardson publisher — recently announced Tolokonnikova will write a bi-weekly column about Russian news and politics for the magazine's website.

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