The model flies high in my award-winning fashion shot for Alberto Européen after getting prepped by assistants at my former studio in downtown Winnipeg in 2004. (JAMES O’CONNOR/BRANDON SUN)
Prep team at my former studio in downtown Winnipeg in 2004. (JAMES O’CONNOR/BRANDON SUN)
It was no secret among the community of commercial photographers in Winnipeg in the early 2000s that Richard Dow was a creep.
As a Winnipeg city cop, he ran a sideline photo studio business out of his house where he specialized in "glamour" pictures of young women.
As I was the photo editor of the Winnipeg Sun at the time, I was also tasked with the onerous job of capturing images of lovely women in skimpy clothing and bikinis. Except, I would have a female assistant with me at all times, rent a local studio or, most often, do location shoots in public places.
By coincidence, several of the young women who modelled for me also had been in front of Dow’s lens.
They would tell me they felt "creeped out" from the moment they entered his home studio, but went through with the process as he was a police officer and they felt they just weren’t used to the business of modelling. But there was little right and a lot of wrong going down at Dow’s digs.
Most of the ladies I spoke with told me they had a feeling they were being watched or recorded while they changed in his bathroom.
And while none ever told me he inappropriately touched them, he was pretty "hands on" when adjusting straps, or suggesting topless photos and the like. But it was nothing that sounded illegal and I was always working with legal age models at the Sun.
But Dow would recruit them at a much younger age. Sure, mom, you can trust him. He’s a cop.
I recall having a few chats with Dow back then. He was wondering if there was some way the Winnipeg Sun and his agency — the pompously named RiCoCo International — could do some business together. You know, make sure we had enough models and he had the prestige of being associated with the Sun Media newspaper chain.
Thankfully, I decided not to pursue any association with Dow.
Call it a gut instinct, but I just didn’t want to associate with that man. He was thick, genuine slime.
And shortly after I left the Winnipeg Sun to became managing editor at a chain of weeklies in Winnipeg, then eventually found my way out to beautiful Brandon, the world came crashing down all around Dow.
The 19-year veteran police officer — who had by now dyed his jet-black hair to some kind of coppery blonde, likely to disguise himself from what must be a small army of angry boyfriends, brothers and fathers — was sentenced last September to 16 months in jail after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting 11 young women who agreed to model in his off-duty photography business between 2001 and 2005.
He was given credit for two months already served behind bars, leaving him with 16 more.
The 58-year-old’s sentence drew anger from some feminists who were outraged by the sentence.
Justice Chris Martin also was derided for breaking down the sentence by each specific offence:
• 15 days in prison for the assault
• 30 for each count of touching a breast
• 45 for each count of touching buttocks
• 60 for each count of touching genitals
Martin doubled the number of days if the victim was under 18.
Court heard in May that almost all of the sexual assaults took place at photo shoots and involved young women between the ages of 17 and 23 years old. The assaults involved inappropriate and unwanted sexual touching, court heard.
In April, in a separate trial, a jury found Dow not guilty to sexually assaulting a female modelling client during a photo shoot at his home as early as 2000, CBC reported.
It’s not easy being a truly good glamour, bathing suit, boudoir or fashion photographer. It takes a certain amount of patience, talent and self-restraint.
Some people just get into the business for all the wrong reasons. I had it kind of drop into my lap, so to speak, when I started my career at the Winnipeg Sun as an entertainment reporter and the existing SunShine Girl photographer was relieved of his duties for taking the girls to parks with a six pack of beer for the photo shoot.
Since I had done some fashion shooting while studying at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, I was asked if I could fill in.
And some 350 photo shoots later, not a single complaint, but a lot of very nice photos. If I do say so myself.
After I left the Sun and as Dow was going down, I entered into a partnership at a photo studio in downtown Winnipeg. Again, it would be very rare when I wouldn’t have someone else at least in the building if I was doing photos of a woman. I would often hire an assistant.
It’s simply safer, gives you someone to lug gear around and makes the whole experience just that more professional.
I’ve long since packed up my career in glamour photography. Now I usually just rip politicians to shreds on this page each week.
But this was a story I wanted to tell. To warn parents, young women and men to be careful if they are interested in trying their hand at modelling.
Most photographers are great and completely above board.
As for Dow, he died last week at Headingley Correctional Centre. The Winnipeg Free Press reports an autopsy confirmed Dow died of natural causes, perhaps a heart attack. Richard Norman Dow was 58.
If he hadn’t died of natural causes surely life behind bars as a teenie-diddler cop would have been hell.
But think of the sick memories he’s left with all of his young victims.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 23, 2013