Herb Ritts: Fashion Royalty

Fashion Royalty: Herb Ritts

Self taught fashion and celebrity photographer Herb Ritts (1952 – 2002) has been turning his lens onto supermodels and A List celebrities since the early 70s, after he photographed his friend Richard Gere at a gas station. Nowadays considered among fashion royalty alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. 

Being based in Los Angeles, he has always drawn inspiration from cinema, Hollywood glamour as well as sculpture and fine art. His oeuvre shows us his ability to mesh these influences together seamlessly resulting in a final product which goes far beyond commercial photography. As can be seen in the hundreds of magazine spreads he has created, Ritts brings together pictures designed to sell clothes with other that simply celebrate beauty.

Ritts’s ability to create photographs that successfully bridge 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.

Stephanie Nature Story by Herb Ritts

His graphic simplicity allows his images to be read and felt instantaneously rendering them timeless and still relevant today. They often challenge conventional notions of gender or race, particularly those of the 80s and 90s. Ritts was one of the first fashion photographers to give equal importance to the male body as the female one. He redefined masculine glamour with his traditionalist images of modern-day Adonises, whose hypertonic physiques he adoringly mythologized. 

Herb Ritts Neith With Shadows (Rear) Poundridge, 1985
Herb Ritts Neith With Shadows (Rear) Poundridge, 1985

During his career he worked with all the top names in fashion both in terms of brands as well as the top models such as Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford and Alek Wek. When speaking about working with him Naomi Campbell says “‘You just fall in love with that light – it’s Herb’s light.’ Ritts was drawn to elemental places, where he could use the sea, sand and sky as backgrounds, and so his hometown of Los Angeles would become inextricably linked to his success, due both to the people living there and its outdoorsy lifestyle.”