PARIS (AFP) - Fashion photographer David Hamilton threatened on Tuesday (Nov 22) to sue his accusers after four former child models said he raped them.
The 83-year-old British-born artist, whose books of often suggestive pictures of underage girls have sold millions of copies, said he had previously been cleared of abuse.
But Mr Hamilton, whose work has long raised questions about where art ends and pornography begins, is at the centre of a raft of fresh allegations after a French radio presenter accused him of raping her when she was 13.
Ms Flavie Flament published an autobiographical novel last month in which she told of being raped by a famous photographer during a shoot.
Although she did not name Mr Hamilton in The Consolation for fear of being sued, she used his photograph of her as the book's cover.
Ms Flament, 42, later told French media that Mr Hamilton had raped her after three other women contacted her with near identical allegations.
Mr Hamilton denied the allegations, telling Agence France-Presse on Tuesday: "I have done nothing improper."
But he confirmed that Ms Flament had been his model.
"I met her 29 or 30 years ago for a test. I did a test on her. And the photo I took at the time was published. It was a long time ago. I haven't seen her since," he said.
Mr Hamilton, who once said he was not interested in photographing girls aged over 16, denied raping or abusing any other of the women who have made claims against him.
"I did nothing at all," said the photographer, who has lived in France for decades.
Mr Hamilton accused the media of "presenting these accusations like the truth".
"I was accused several years ago and cleared. I am innocent and should be considered so," he added in a statement.
The photographer also turned on Ms Flament, accusing her of slander.
"Clearly the instigator of this media lynching is looking for her 15 minutes of fame by defaming me in her novel. I will take several legal actions in the coming days and it will be for the courts to condemn those responsible for this defamation," he said.
Mr Hamilton, who has said that his work looks for the "candour of a lost paradise", is most famous for his kitschy calendars of young girls and his soft-focus erotic films, including Bilitis (1977).
However, a British man was convicted in 2005 of having indecent images of children that included books by Mr Hamilton after prosecutors argued that some of the pictures were "plainly indecent".
Ms Flament said she had been afraid to bring charges earlier.
Under the French statute of limitations, charges must be brought within 20 years for rape and 10 years for sexual abuse.
"I wasn't allowed to say his name in my work because the law as it stands doubly condemns rape victims," she told L'Obs weekly.
"You go from victim to being guilty of defamation" by mentioning what happened, she said. "You don't sleep but your rapist can sleep soundly" knowing they can't be touched by the law.
Ms Flament said Mr Hamilton raped her in the shower of his apartment after spotting her in a nudist resort at Cap d'Agde in south-west France, where she was on holiday with her parents.
The case has reopened the debate on the statute of limitations in France, particularly concerning sex crimes against children.
In a new twist on Tuesday, the French minister for children's and women's rights asked Ms Flament to head a body which will look at whether to extend the statute of limitations.
Mr Laurence Rossignol said Ms Flament was a "victim but also an expert on this subject".
Last month, the junior minister in charge of victims of crime or terror, Ms Juliette Meadel, said the law "had to be rethought and worked on".