Friday, May 27, 2011

Herb Ritts

I recently had the immense pleasure of seeing an exhibition of the work of photographer Herb Ritts at the Camera Work Gallery in Berlin. I have been enamoured with Ritts' body of work ever since my childhood, and in that respect, having grown up with his imagery, my appreciation of beauty and the human form has been greatly influenced and shaped by his vision.

Ritts was one of the most influential and sought after photographers in the 1980s and the 1990s, and had a prolific career working for the likes of Vanity Fair, Interview, Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. Ritts' name is synonymous with some of the most iconic images of superstars such as Madonna, Richard Gere, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts. It was however his portraits of the original supermodels which would change forever the way we would look at models. Ritts had an innate, magical ability to capture and encapsulate the essence of his subject within a single frame. Whether it be Christy Turlington posing serenely underneath a fountain of water or Tatjana Patitz frolicking on the beach, Ritts' images were always beautiful and a true celebration of the human form. 

Ritts sadly passed away in 2002 due to HIV-related complications. In 2010, a book entitled "The Golden Hour" was published in tribute to Ritts, and featured previously unpublished works as well as scores of interviews with those who knew him best. Below are excerpts from interviews with some of his favourite muses. 


Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington,
Tatjana Patitz & Naomi Campbell, Hollywood, 1989
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com 


"I was kind of an up-and-coming young model, definitely on the "one to watch" list. Herb was on that list to. He was in L.A., and I was in New York, but I kept hearing his name. I think the first job I did for him was for Macy's. It wasn't particularly creative for either one of us. We were both still taking those jobs to pay the bills. After that Herb started booking me a lot, and I started going to L.A. a lot. Herb was just such a gentle person. A lot of times it's very daunting or intimidating walking into a studio, especially when the photographer is a big shot, and you're twenty years old... The photographer sets the tone for the whole studio. Herb was so gracious and real and sweet, and so everyone showed up with their best selves. He really was one of those people that, even though I was sixteen, or whatever, when I met him he always treated me like an adult, and not in a sophisticated way, but just with respect." - Christy Turlington (Courtesy of the Golden Hour)


Christy Turlington, Hollywood, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Christy Turlington, Hollywood, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Christy Turlington, Los Angeles, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com


"I say this kindly, but I just don't see that many photographers - up-and-coming photographers - that have that same finesse, that understand light so well, that understand film, that understand also how to communicate. But Herb was always so excited, and that's so contagious. You feel like you're actually creating things together, and the great photographers all have that. They know they're capturing something that's fantastic, but you have to wait until they show you the contact sheet to see what it is. You feel excited, and then you can't wait to see the layout. And it was magical. That's the best way I can describe Herb, is it was always magic." - Tatjana Patitz (Courtesy of the Golden Hour)


Tatjana Patitz, Joshua Tree, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Tatjana Patitz, Hawaii, 1987
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Tatjana Patitz, St Barthelemy, 1987
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com


"Herb Ritts was an amazing photographer and I was really grateful to get to work with him. His pictures are definitely something in fashion that are missed today... I just did some really incredible work with Herb and I miss him very much." - Naomi Campbell (Courtesy of Fashion for Relief)


Naomi Campbell, Los Angeles, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Naomi Campbell, Hollywood, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Naomi Campbell, Hollywood, 1989
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com


"You knew you were going to look gorgeous - the way Herb photographed you was the way you wanted the world to see you. Herb saw the best in everyone, so that's how he photographed you. It was like, yeah, I wish I looked like that when I woke up in the morning... I think because you knew you were going to look great you could totally trust him. For a model it's very unsatisfying to come in when a photographer's already worked out the photo: Where's me in this picture? I never felt that way with Herb. You definitely felt like you made a contribution." - Cindy Crawford (Courtesy of the Golden Hour)


Cindy Crawford, Hawaii, 1988
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of faheykleingallery.com

Cindy Crawford, Hawaii, 1987
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Cindy Crawford, Hawaii, 1987
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com


"On the beach Herb was incredible. I worked with him on the beach so much, but the shoot that stands out the most was the Playboy shoot. I almost didn't go, because I had a big cold sore on my face and it was breaking out. I was only twenty. He said, "Just come, I promise, I'll let you see all the pictures. Of course I was nervous about doing anything for Playboy. So anyway he got me there, and we had the best time, and the pictures were incredible. The beauty in shooting like that is that you don't really know until you get the film. But you think you know. You're there, you're shooting it, you see it, you feel it, its organic. He had this huge water truck. And they heated the water so that I could wash off afterwards. Who does that? He always thought of everything. I used to get up in the morning and go shopping for all the drinks and food with the assistants. I just loved feeling a part of everything." - Stephanie Seymour (Courtesy of the Golden Hour)


Stephanie Seymour, Los Angeles, 1990
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Stephanie Seymour, Los Angeles, 1989
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com

Stephanie Seymour, Hawaii, 1989
© Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of artnet.com


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