Image credit Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage, 1990, Herb Ritts, gelatin silver print. Gift of the Herb Ritts Foundation. © Herb Ritts Foundation.
J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
CA 90049-1687 Los Angeles
T +1 (310) 440-7330
F +1 (310) 440-7751
| Published ||April 11, 2012 at 10:53am|
| Seen ||1583 times|
J. Paul Getty Museum, Photography, Los Angeles, United-States
Tuesday April 3, 2012 - Sunday August 26, 2012 - Event ended.
He revolutionized fashion photography, modernized the nude, and transformed celebrities into icons. 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.
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.
From the late 1970s until Ritts's untimely death from AIDS-related complications in 2002, his ability to create images that successfully bridged the gap between art and commerce was not only a testament to the power of his imagination and technical skill but also marked the synergistic union between art, popular culture, and business that followed in the wake of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
For his fashion photographs, Ritts drew inspiration from painting, sculpture, film, and the work of such leading fashion and portrait photographers as George Hurrell, Horst P. Horst, Louise Dahl Wolfe, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon. Ritts's ability to synthesize and incorporate these influences into a new style that was easily recognizable was nothing less than extraordinary.
As hundreds of magazine spreads demonstrate, Ritts kept top fashion editors happy by providing a dazzling mix of pictures designed to sell clothes with others that simply celebrated beauty. Ritts cherished his creative freedom and pushed picture editors to use the photographs that he knew would capture people's attention. Once seen, his best fashion pictures are impossible to forget.
During the early 1980s, Ritts became part of a coterie of Los Angeles artists who photographed celebrities for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. Ritts's antiglamour style of portraiture made celebrities look more natural and allowed them to reveal inner qualities, making them more accessible to their fans.
Ritts, who was raised in Brentwood next door to actor Steve McQueen, had a particular ease with celebrities. He knew how to make them feel comfortable and how to cajole them into doing what he wanted them to do. By the late 1980s, Ritts's reputation as a shaper of fame made him a celebrity in his own right, and the iconic status of such pictures as Richard Gere, San Bernardino (1977) and Madonna, Hollywood (1986) made a photograph by Ritts a rite of passage among Hollywood insiders.
In the 1980s, Ritts—along with his contemporaries Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Weber—provoked a radical change in how the nude was depicted. Mapplethorpe reinterpreted the nude in classical terms or in explicit ways calculated to shock. His photographs, regardless of their content, were presented as art. Weber's work for such clients as Calvin Klein radiated warmth and broke new ground in making male sexuality commercially appealing.
Ritts's forte was his ability to analyze the body from a variety of angles and create compositions that abstracted it in ways that communicate strength and poise. Mostly working outdoors, Ritts enjoyed relating the body to the natural world. He rendered his nudes with verve and an overriding elegance that became hallmarks of his pictures.