Controversial but popular photographer commits suicide amongst allegations of sexual abuse against his young models

Image by Pierre Guillard/AFP/Getty Images)

Image by Pierre Guillard/AFP/Getty Images

British photographer David Hamilton, 83, has been found dead after committing suicide, according to a police report, days after allegations against him had surfaced of historical rape. He was found unresponsive in his Paris home by a neighbour, who then alerted the authorities.

Television and radio host Flavie Flament, 42, who had recently gone public to claim that Hamilton raped her almost 30 years ago when she was just 13, has reacted with anger at the news, saying “By his cowardice, he condemns us again to silence and the inability to see him convicted. The horror of this news will never wipe out that of our sleepless nights.”

Hamilton, who lived much of his life in France and was well-known in the 1980s for his portraits of young women, had denied the allegations made by a French radio host that he had sexually assaulted her and several other women while they were in their teens. Hamilton vigorously denied the allegations, telling the AFP last week: “I am innocent and must be considered so.”

He pointed out that he had never been found guilty of any charges and that under France’s statute of limitations, the allowed time (20 years) for rape charges had already passed.

Hamilton’s soft-focus portraits of teen girls, often nude, had been the subject of controversy in the past, including some accusations of child pornography and bans on his work in some countries. Regardless, his photographs proved popular and millions were sold all over the world in the forms of posters, postcards and books. Writing in the Guardian in 2005, one journalist stated: “Hamilton’s photographs have long been the at the forefront of the ‘is it art or is it pornography?’ debate.

The news of the death amidst the allegations against him has reignited a hot debate in France over its statute of limitations on sexual abuse.