For me, the most important thing I learned was just honing my eye. I think I had a good eye. Herb Ritts
Herbert ‘Herb’ Ritts (1952-2002), iconic American portrait photographer, caught the world’s attention in the 80’s with his sexy and bold photos of Madonna, Prince, Cher and the whole Brat Pack young Hollywood actors.
Like Helmut newton and Bruce Weber, he was self-taught, and like them, drawn to clean lines and strong forms. He celebrated the human body as something strong, powerful and beautiful.
He also embraced the glamour and beauty of celebrity culture in Southern California. His work sems to say. “Check out how cool and beautiful these people are! I love them!”
Bold, powerful, strong and sexy is his signature look. His sitter’s look like Greek Gods- all-powerful and shooting from a lower angle, elevated them to the status that suited them- rock stars and screen gods. He throws in some motion-blur every now and then, giving an idea of capturing his sitters mid-gesture.
It is a very distinctive look that he stayed with his whole career. Always shooting in black and white, with such pure whites and strong shadows was his signature style.
Notorious (1992) is a bold and stunning quarto size book. The paper is thick and matt. The images are high contrast with deep blacks and beautiful whites. He did produce a dozen books, but for my money, this is the one, with some of the best photos he has taken of some of the biggest stars in the music and film industry.
He photographed, and made music-videos for everyone who was anyone throughout the 80′ and 90’s and shot commercially for Calvin Klein, Versace and Armani. His career, and life, cut short in 2002, dying from pneumonia complications from being HIV positive. He was 50 years old.
His memory will live on as one of the most successful portrait photographers of the 20th Century.