Herb Ritts, American (1952–2002), was a mostly self-taught, Los Angeles–based, photographer who established an international reputation for exquisite images of artful nudes, portraits, and high-fashion images; he also directed television commercials and music videos.*
Recognition came in the late 1970s, when pictures he shot at a California gas station of his friend, the then aspiring actor Richard Gere, were published in a number of national magazines, and marked the beginning of a illustrious career as a portrait photographer.
Ritts soon developed his own style distinguished by an elegant minimal aesthetic, often inspired by classical Greek sculpture that more than anything celebrated the human form. His models were frequently featured in the bright California light and landscape.
Herb Ritts photographed a wide range of subjects during the 1980s and 90s, from Madonna and Cindy Crawford to the Dalai Lama, Mikael Gorbachev and Kofi Annan. His iconic image of «Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana; Naomi, Hollywood, 1989», for the Rolling Stone magazine, became a symbol for the era of the supermodel. Always passionate about work for magazines, Ritts, in addition to the Rolling Stones, worked for many of the best, including Vogue, Interview, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair; he did 40 covers for the magazine.
Herb Ritts’s images have been exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1996 to 1997), attracting more than 250,000 visitors, the Daimaru Museum, Kyoto, Japan, (solo exhibition 2003), and the Getty Center’s, «Herb Ritts: L.A. Style» (2012), traveled to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.
Herb Ritts died in 2002, at the age of 50, from complications from AIDS.
*Ritts first video was for Madonna in «Cherish» in 1989. He won two MTV Video Awards for his work on music videos by Janet Jackson and Chris Isaak in 1991. He also directed the music video for Michael Jackson’s «In the Closet», which featured supermodel Naomi Campbell.