April 3–September 2, 2012
In the late 1970s, the mostly self-taught, Los Angeles–based photographer Herb Ritts stumbled upon success, after his impromptu images of his longtime friend Richard Gere—taken at a California gas station, on a lark—were widely published and well received. For the next two decades, Ritts distinguished himself from his East Coast counterparts with his clean, minimal aesthetic and knack for Southern California light and landscapes. He also built an incomparable portfolio of fashion and celebrity portraiture as well as provocative, sculptural nudes, often featuring famous athletes and dancers. Before his untimely death in 2002, at the age of 50, Ritts had been the master behind 13 music videos (Madonna, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears), more than 50 television commercials (Chanel, Calvin Klein, Estée Lauder), hundreds of magazine spreads, with almost 40 covers for Vanity Fair alone, and eight books, including this month’s Herb Ritts L.A. Style—a retrospective monograph and exhibition on display at Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum from April 3 through August 26. Approaching the 10th anniversary of his death, VF.com refocuses on Ritts’s multifaceted and ever fashionable career, with an exclusive selection of renowned as well as several previously unpublished photographs from the show.
( Lenora Jane Estes, Vanity Fair)
Herb Ritts revolutionized fashion photography, modernized the nude, and transformed celebrities into icons.
Through hard work and a distinctive vision, Herb Ritts (1952–2002) fashioned himself into one of the top photographers to emerge from the 1980s. Ritts’s aesthetic incorporated facets of life in and around Los Angeles. He often made use of the bright California sunlight to produce bold contrasts, and his preference for outdoor locations such as the desert and the beach helped to separate his work from that of his New York-based peers. Ritts’s intimate portraiture, his modern yet classical treatment of the nude, and his innovative approach to fashion brought him international acclaim and placed him securely within an American tradition of portrait and magazine photography that includes Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Irving Penn.