Herb Ritts

(1952 - 2002)

About The Artist

Photographer Herb Ritts created some of the most iconic images of 1980s Hollywood glamour and high fashion through his artistic, commercial, and magazine work. His bold, opulent images frequently employ stark contrasts of shadow and light, dramatic compositions, and innovative props and staging. His notable clients included Vogue, Vanity Fair, Calvin Klein, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Chanel. The photographer made his mark at the age of 26, after his famous photo Richard Gere, San Bernardino (1977) was published in Mademoiselle, Vogue, and Esquire. Ritts and Gere were on a road trip when they ran out of gas. Out of boredom, Ritts began to shoot the as yet unknown actor. This was an image that launched two careers.

In the 1980s and 1990s Ritts photographed an exhaustively long list of actors, models, and musicians, including Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jordan, George Clooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Brigitte Nielson. His photo of 1989, Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, created a maelstrom of discussion and gossip. The popular, well-liked photographer successfully gathered five of the top supermodels at the time and photographed them in an intimate and vulnerable embrace. In the early 1990’s, Ritts created a landmark campaign for Calvin Klein underwear in which he pictured model Kate Moss and actor Mark Wahlberg, then known as “Marky Mark” from his hip-hop career, in their Calvins. Although many of Ritts’ images have forever entered the annals of pop culture, there is also a sense of the timeless and classical in the way he frames and highlights the body, comparable to ancient Greek sculpture and the focus on the musculature and curves of human anatomy. In Greg Louganis, Hollywood, (1985), the Olympic medalist is showcased like a sculpture. Louganis sits stoically upon a pedestal while the sharp, low lighting projects a looming shadow in the background and brings out every crease and curve of the athlete’s accomplished frame. In Man with Chain, Los Angeles (1985), model Tony Ward flexes and twists against an oversized chain, drawing allusions to the famous Laocoön and His Sons (40-30 B.C., excavated 1506) held at the Vatican Museums, Vatican City.  His images rest comfortably at the intersection of high and low culture, art, and advertising. In 2012, his diverse work in magazines, advertising, music videos, and fine art was celebrated in the exhibition Herb Ritts: L.A. Style, organized and debuted at the J. Paul Getty Museum and traveling to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. Ritts’s work continues to be included in new exhibitions at galleries and museums around the world.

“Herb Ritts: L.A. Style.” The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012. Web. 5 Sept. 2014.