Herb Ritts born 13 August 1952 (d. 2002)
Herb Ritts was an American fashion photographer who concentrated on black-and-white photography and portraits in the style of classical Greek sculpture. Consequently some of his more famous pieces are of male and female nudes in what can be called glamour photography.
He was born in Los Angeles, California to a prosperous family who owned a furniture business.
In 1974 he received an economics degree from Bard College in upstate New York and soon after returned to Los Angeles to work as a sales representative for his family's business.
However, Ritts started taking night classes in photography and decided to dedicate himself to the art in the late 1970s. His first break into the business occurred as a result of taking portraits of his actor friend Richard Gere. These photos gained national exposure on the covers of many magazines.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he worked with magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue on portraits of famous people and artistic photos of models.
Subjects of his black-and-white celebrity portraits included Kofi Annan, Cindy Crawford, the Dalai Lama, Madonna, Jack Nicholson and Elizabeth Taylor.
In 1981, Ritts took photos for the album cover of Olivia Newton-John's Physical.
Ritts started his long term collaboration with Madonna in 1984, when he shot the ad for her movie Desperately Seeking Susan. In 1986, Ritts shot the cover photo of Madonna's True Blue album. He later ventured into the world of music video at a suggestion of Madonna and filmed her video Cherish. In 1989 he photographed Belinda Carlisle for her Runaway Horses album.
He photographed Cindy Crawford for the July 1988, and October 1998 issues of Playboy.
Ritts proved himself to be successful in directing music videos. In 1991 two of these, Chris Isaak's Wicked Game and Janet Jackson's Love Will Never Do (Without You), won MTV Video Music Awards. He co-directed Michael Jackson's In the Closet video which featured supermodel Naomi Campbell. He also directed videos for Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, the latter was completed shortly before his death.
Ritts published a number of books of photographs, including Pictures (1988), Men-Women (1989), Duo (1991), Notorious (1992), Africa (1994), Modern Souls (1995), and Work (1996).
Ritts's male nudes have been described as having 'a profoundly intimate feeling'. The photographer himself felt that his pictures reflected a 'classic sensuality' rather than a 'gay sensibility'. Nevertheless, although his images are widely admired by mainstream audiences, they have a particular appeal to gay viewers.
Ritts was always candid about his own sexuality. He realised that he was gay while he was in college. He soon came out to his parents, who were accepting and supportive.
HIV-positive, Ritts died in Los Angeles from pneumonia-related complications 26 December 2002. He left behind his partner Erik Hyman.
The Herb Ritts Foundation focuses on two areas; it is primarily an HIV/AIDS funding, education, advocacy and support group and is also dedicated to supporting photography as an art form and maintaining Ritts' legacy.
Ritts' final published photographs were those of actor Ben Affleck in Vanity Fair magazine.
Herb Ritts' Official website
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