Remembering the Work of Photographer Herb Ritts

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One of the most gifted photographers of the late-20th century, Herb Ritts had a discerning eye for both male and female sensuality. Brilliant behind the camera — be it with moving imagery or still — Ritts was a master of capturing physical form on film. His striking photographs of such legendary actors and supermodels as Richard Gere, Nicole Kidman, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell stop you dead in your tracks, while his music videos for Janet Jackson, Chris Isaak, Madonna, and Michael Jackson made MTV a destination for style and glamour in the ’90s.

A California kid, who studied economics and helped his family in their furniture business, Ritts got his big break when his impromptu snapshot of friend Richard Gere changing a flat tire at a desert gas station landed in American lifestyle magazines in the late-’70s. Mademoiselle magazine tracked him down to photograph Brooke Shields and Ritts’ 25-year career behind the camera began. Celebrated for his clean lines and strong forms, Ritts was equally known for his outdoor settings — turning beaches and deserts, with their bright skies and dramatic shadows, into his preferred studios.

Ritts, who died at the age of 50 in 2002, is currently the subject of a 25-year survey show of seldom-seen, vintage prints at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, that runs through December 4, and an innovative biography of his life, published by Rizzoli New York, which mixes both private and professional photographs with quotes from author Charles Churchward’s interviews with family, friends, and business associates, as well as the subjects he photographed in his awe-inspiring body of work.

Click through below for a gallery of images and videos.

Herb Ritts, Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge 1, Los Angeles, 2001, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Richard Gere, San Bernandino, 1978, © Herb Ritts Foundation from the book Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward, Rizzoli 2010

Herb Ritts, Cindy Crawford, Ferre 2, Malibu, 1994, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Fred with Tires, Hollywood, CA, 1984, © Herb Ritts Foundation from the book Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward, Rizzoli 2010

Herb Ritts, Helena with Fan 1, Malibu, 1996, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles.

Herb Ritts, Male Nude with Topcoat, Los Angeles, 2000, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Frankie Rayder with Snake 1, Vasquez Rocks, 2000, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Philip Seymour Hoffman 1, Los Angeles, 1999, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Versace, Veiled Dress, El Mirage, 1990, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Steve 1, Los Angeles, 1987, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Christy Turlington, Versace 1, El Mirage, 1990, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Tony with Shadow, Los Angeles, 1988, © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Herb Ritts, Versace Dress (back view), El Mirage, 1990, © Herb Ritts Foundation from the book Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward, Rizzoli 2010

Herb in Bali, Indonesia, 1987. Photo by Richard Gere, © Herb Ritts Foundation from the book Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward, Rizzoli 2010