34 Photos of Richard Branson That Will Make You Go Hmm

We aren't surprised Richard Branson introduced new see-through tops for the female staff at Virgin Trains. 

Richard Branson likes to pose.

At first, we thought the best way to demonstrate that is with pictures of the man himself. After all, there's no shortage:

1969: File picture of British businessman Richard Branson. AFP/Getty Images

22 June 1984: British entrepreneur Richard Branson inaugurates his new airline Virgin Atlantic Airways. Terry Disney/Express/Getty Images

29 September 2009: Richard Branson poses at the opening of the Virgin Mobile Metro Theatre. Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

8 April 2013: Sir Richard Branson arrives at Edinburgh Airport and lifts his Harris Tweed Kilt. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Then we thought that a better way might be to show the Branson's prediliction for getting close to beautiful women:

8 December 2004: Businessman Richard Branson gestures as he arrives to launch his new Virgin Atlantic airline. Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

24 February 2009: Sir Richard Branson poses in the pool. Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

26 October 2009: Sir Richard Branson and actress Marisa Tomei attend 'Rock The Kasbah' hosted by Sir Richard Branson and Eve Branson. Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for Virgin Unite

26 October 2009: Sir Richard Branson, Tiffany Persons and actress Marisa Tomei attend 'Rock The Kasbah' hosted by Sir Richard Branson and Eve Branson. Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for Virgin Unite

17 April 2011: Sir Richard Branson and his daughter Holly Branson, dressed as a cheerleaders, take part in a record-breaking cheer at Canary Wharf. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

11 February 2012: TV Personality Kim Kardashian, Honoree Sir Richard Branson and Singer Britney Spears attend Clive Davis and the Recording Academy's 2012 Pre-GRAMMY Gala. Larry Busacca/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

11 February 2012: Sir Richard Branson and singer Natalie Imbruglia attend Clive Davis and the Recording Academy's 2012 Pre-GRAMMY Gala. Larry Busacca/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

13 March 2012: Sir Richard Branson launches the day of activity at Liverpool Lime Street Station. Tony Woolliscroft/Getty Images

4 April 2012: Sir Richard Branson (L) and actress Amber Rose attend the Launch of Virgin America's First Flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Michael Buckner/Getty Images

4 April 2012: Sir Richard Branson attends the Launch of Virgin America's First Flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Michael Buckner/Getty Images

22 April 2013: Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson poses for a photo after being presented a sequined captain's jacket by Las Vegas showgirls. Bob Riha, Jr./Virgin America via Getty Images

Sometimes, perhaps too close to beautiful women:

4 November 2002: Virgin Mobile's Richard Branson and some beautiful Sydney models. Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

19 March 2010: Sir Richard Branson interacts with guests during the 'Branson By The Pool' function. Paul Kane/Getty Images

Sometimes dangerously close:

15 October 2003: Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, attends the launch of his latest U.S. company 'Virgin Pulse'. Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Once, the woman was wooden:

26 October 1984: English businessman Richard Branson at the Princess Victoria pub, London. Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Also I'm not sure those windows are supposed to open:

22 April 2013: Sir Richard Branson - and a Las Vegas showgirl friend - emerge from the flight deck window of Virgin America's just landed inaugural flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Bob Riha, Jr./Virgin America via Getty Images

But then we discovered the motherlode.

It turns out, if you're a woman who stands near Richard Branson, he will pick you up.

14 June 2004: Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson celebrates on French soil after a record-breaking crossing of the English Channel. Carl De Souza/Getty Images

9 December 2004: Businessman Sir Richard Branson plays in the surf on Bondi Beach with a model. Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

9 December 2004: Model Bessie Bardot with Businessman Sir Richard Branson attend a private party. Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

31 March 2005: British business tycoon Sir Richard Branson (C) of Virgin Atlantic Airways lifts Indian model Jeniffer Mayani after the airline's inaugural flight touched down at the International Airport in Bombay. SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

4 December 2005: Richard Branson, chairman and founder of the Virgin Group of companies, holds Wang Jingqian, who won a pair of upper class round trip tickets from Shanghai to London. China Photos/Getty Images

28 March 2006: Sir Richard Branson poses with a belly dancer at the Bab-el-Shams hotel resort. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

29 March 2006: British Entrepreneur and businessman Sir Richard Branson poses with Miss England Hammasa Kohistani during a photocall on a stretch of sand on the man-made island known as 'United Kingdom' in the new development, The World, in Dubai. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

23 February 2009: A woman gestures after being lifted by Sir Richard Branson during the official launch of the new Virgin Active. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

22 June 2009: Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson poses with model Kate Moss on a wing of a jumbo jet at Heathrow Airport. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

15 June 2010: Founder and President of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson holds burlesque artist Dita Von Teese as they appear on the wing of a Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-400 aircraft at McCarran International Airport. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

12 September 2010: John Borghetti CEO, Delta Goodrem and Sir Richard Branson celebrate Virgin Blue's 10th Anniversary in Australia. Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

3 July 2012: Zoe Hardman, Sir Richard Branson, Lydia Bright and Michelle Heaton attend a photocall to reveal Richard Branson's celebrity team taking part in this year's Virgin Active London Triathlon. Stuart Wilson/Getty Images

22 April 2013: Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson lifts a Virgin America teammate on the red carpet. Bob Riha, Jr./Virgin America via Getty Images

Eventually, though, some women got their own back:

17 April 2011: Sir Richard Branson and his daughter Holly Branson (2nd L), dressed as a cheerleaders, take part in a record-breaking cheer at Canary Wharf. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

And one just wasn't taking it any more:

26 September 2002: Chairman of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, poses with model Maddy Ford at the launch of Virgin.net Broadband service. John Li/Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty
Show Hide image

What’s it like to be a human rights activist in post-Pussy Riot Russia?

It is five years since the feminist punk collective crashed Moscow’s Cathedral in a performance that got some of them jailed.

On 21 February 2012, five brightly-dressed members of Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot took to the alter of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to protest links between the Russian Orthodox Church and its “chief saint” Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Virgin birth-giver of God, drive away Putin!” they shouted from beneath now-iconic balaclavas.

The “Punk Prayer” was both a political statement and a powerful feminist message. Six months later, a judge sentenced three of the girls to two years in prison (one was rapidly released) on a conspicuously apolitical conviction of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

These past five years, Russia’s involvement in crises in Syria and Ukraine has cast a dark shadow over relations with an increasingly cleaved-off West. The year 2015 saw opposition politician Boris Nemtsov murdered some 500 metres from the Kremlin walls.

Domestically, society has constricted people challenging the political status quo. However, low-key initiatives retain traction.

“Artists are simply silent,” says Russian curator and gallerist Marat Guelman, who left for Montenegro in early 2015. “It is better not to say anything about politics, it is better to bypass these issues.”

This is a major difference from five years ago. “Despite persecution against Pussy Riot, people were not afraid to defend them,” he says. “It was a better time.”

There are three topics artists and curators now avoid, says artist and feminist activist Mikaela. One is “homosexuality . . . especially if it involves adolescents”, she says, citing a 2015 exhibit about LGBT teens called “Be Yourself”. Authorities closed it and interrogated the galley owner. “Then the war in Ukraine,” she says. “Russian Orthodoxy is the third topic you cannot tackle.”

Marianna Muravyeva, a law professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that aside from the government completely discarding human rights rhetoric, the most significant legal change is the “gay propaganda” law and “legislation against those who insult the feelings of believers”.

The latter came into force in July 2013. Since then, the Orthodox Church has made deeper societal incursions. Muravyeva says that the secular nature of the Soviet Union led to residual feelings of guilt towards the Church – and now it uses that “capital”.

Mikaela observes a “cultural expansion”, citing a new TV channel, radio station and three new churches in her neighbourhood alone.

Orthodox activist attacks on exhibits have increased. In August 2015, they targeted an exhibit at one of Moscow’s most prominent art galleries. Its perpetrators were found guilty of “petty hooliganism” and handed a 1,000 rouble fine (£14 by today’s rates).

“Any word written in Old Slavonic lettering is spirituality,” says Guelman. “Any work of art by a modern artist . . . depravity, sin, the impact of the West.”

Similar groups are active across Russia, and galleries err on the side of caution. Perpetrators, while self-organised, believe their actions to be state-sanctioned, says Muravyeva. They are influenced by “the kinds of messages” conveyed by the government. 

Nowadays, self-organisation is integral to artistic expression. Mikaela witnessed educational institutions and foreign foundations telling artists “we are with you”, “we know you are smart” but they cannot host political works for fear of closure. Not knowing where the “invisible line” lies foments uncertainty. “It’s self-censorship,” she says.

Dissident artist Petr Pavlensky, notorious for nailing his scrotum to the Red Square in late 2013 (“Fixation”) and setting fire to the doors of the FSB in 2015, advocates personal agency.

“Fixation” was about a sense of helplessness in Russia that must be overcome; he tried to convey the amount of power the castrated have. “Pavlensky says, ‘Look, I have even less than you’,” says Guelman. The artist and his partner Oksana Shalygina are now in France intending to seek asylum after sexual assault accusations.

Some rise to the opportunity, such as Daria Serenko. She rides the Moscow Metro carrying political posters as part of Tikhy Piket or “Silent Protest”. Her 12 February sign depicted a girl with her head in her arms inundated by the comments received if a women alleges rape (“she was probably drunk”, “what was she wearing?”).

However, as a lone individual in a public space, she experienced hostility. “Men, as always, laughed,” she posted on Facebook afterwards. Earlier this month an anonymous group pasted painted plants accompanied by anti-domestic violence messages around Omsk, southwestern Siberia.

Their appearance corresponded with Putin signing legislation on 7 February decriminalising domestic abuse that causes “minor harm”. While it doesn’t specifically mention women, Muravyeva says that the message “women can manage on their own” is a “disaster”.

On 27 January, after Russia’s parliament passed the final draft, pro-Kremlin tabloid Life released a video (“He Beats You Because He Loves You”) showing how to inflict pain without leaving a mark.

Heightened social awareness is aided by online networks. Since “Punk Prayer”, the proportion of people using the internet in Russia has exploded. In 2011, it was 33 per cent, while in 2016 it was 73 per cent, according annual Freedom House reports. Authorities have concurrently exerted stronger controls over it, eg. targeting individual social media users through broadly-worded laws against “extremism”.

Last July, the hashtag #ЯНеБоюсьСказать (“#IamNotAfraidtoSay”) went viral. Women documented experiences of sexual violence. Russian organisation Сёстры (“Sisters”), which helps survivors receive psychological support, receives “250-350” crisis calls annually.

“Over the past year, the number of applications increased,” because of the hashtag, it says. New media platforms Meduza and Wonderzine also emerged as more “socially aware” outlets. Previously “all we had was LiveJournal communities,” Mikaela says.

Bottom-up challenges are partially due to a generational shift. “Nobody bothered before,” says Muravyeva. “Those children who were born after ‘95 . . . they were already born in a very free society – they don’t know what it is to be afraid, they don’t know what it is to be self-censoring, what it is to be really scared of the state.”

Aliide Naylor is a British journalist and former Arts and Ideas Editor of The Moscow Times.

> Now read Anoosh Chakelian’s interview with Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot