Herb Ritts, Photographer of the human landscape
One of the best American photographers of his generation, Herb Ritts (1952-2002) has photographed nude models, celebrity portraits, models for major names in fashion and public figures. He revolutionized fashion photography, modernized nudity and transformed stars into unavoidable icons. He developed a distinctive style that offers a balance between his commercial production and artistic creation. Ritts has worked with iconic models of his time, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He saw his photos published in many magazines, including interviews, Esquire, Mademoiselle, glamour, GQ, Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Time, Vogue, allure, Vanity Fair, Details and IT.
The success of each photographer requires a set of technical skills along with other qualifications. Ritts had an undisputable asset: his talent as a communicator, particularly with famous people. During his childhood in Los Angeles, Steve McQueen was his neighbor. It was through this experience that he mastered this talent: make his interlocutors comfortable without getting subjugated by their aura. He was able to have the confidence and the collaboration of his subjects.
But his main talent was his sensitivity to the physical qualities of the world around him, the light and the places that make Southern California a special place for photography. Several of his famous fashion photographs were shot outside, mainly in the vast dry deposition of the large El Mirage Lake of California.
Due to his work and to having a clear vision, Ritts rose to become one of the best photographers of the 1980’s. Ritts’ aesthetics incorporates facets of the daily life in the Los Angeles region. He often made use of California’s luminous brightness to produce images with bold contrasts. He preferred the outdoor scenes such as the desert or the beach to differentiate from the practices of the major studios in New York. The majority of his work featured the sunny skies of Southern California.
The force of his work stems from his great sense of design, simplicity, the purity of the composition lines and his understanding of the power of black and white images. He alternated between 35 mm camera and medium format, usually using a film at high contrast, the Kodak Tri-X.
His intimate portraits, his classical treatment of the modernized nude and his innovative approach for the production of fashion photos gave him an international reputation. He established a reputation similar to that of great photographers of his time, including Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Irving Penn.
From the end of the 1970’s up to the premature death of Ritts in 2002 as a result of complications related to AIDS, his capacity to create images that are successful in bridging the gap between art and trade was a testimony to the power of his imagination and his technical skills. His work also marks the synergistic union between the art, popular culture and in the crowds of the Pop Art business of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Here is a recreation of the session “Fred with the tires” made by BBC with the photographer David Gandy: Seven photographs that Changed fashion. This video was produced in 2010 and is available on YouTube.
Herbert List (1903 – 1975)
Horst P. Horst (1906 – 1993)
Horst P. Horst: Underwater Fashion Fine Art Photographer
Study on the lighting techniques developed by Horst in order to create the effects of ‘clear-obscure’, strong contrasts between light and darkness by placing the areas of brightness precisely in the foreground in front of a dark background, or on the contrary, with multiple plans in a single image.
George Hoyningen-Huene (1900 – 1968), born in Russia, moved to the United States in 1935
George Platt Lynes (1907 – 1955)
Platt Lynes has worked with the choreographe George Balanchine and his dancers
Presentation of images: The Jack B. Woody Collection: Steven Kasher Gallery
The Human Landscape
References, Herb Ritts
Herb Ritts,L.A. Style, You Tube 2012
Video, Herb Ritts
Madonna, Cherish, 1989
Madonna, Like a Prayer, 1989
Michael Jackson – In the Closet, with Naomi Campbell