Herb Ritts

Herb Ritts
Herb Ritts.jpg
Herbert Ritts Jr.

(1952-08-13)August 13, 1952
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died December 26, 2002(2002-12-26) (aged 50)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Bard College
Occupation Photographer
Awards GLAAD Media Awards
Pioneer Award 2008

Herbert "Herb" Ritts Jr. (August 13, 1952 – December 26, 2002) was an American fashion photographer and director prolific for his photographs of celebrities, models, and other cultural figures throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His work concentrated on black and white photography and portraits, often in the style of classical Greek sculpture, which emphasized the human shape.[1]

Early life and career

Born in Los Angeles, to a Jewish family,[2] Ritts began his career working in the family furniture business. His father, Herb Ritts Sr., was a businessman, while his mother, Shirley Ritts, was an interior designer. He moved to the East Coast to attend Bard College in New York, where he majored in economics and art history, graduating in 1975.[1]

Later, while living in Los Angeles, he became interested in photography when he and friend Richard Gere, then an aspiring actor, decided to shoot some photographs in front of an old jacked up Buick.[1] The picture gained Ritts some coverage and he began to be more serious about photography. He photographed Brooke Shields for the cover of the Oct. 12, 1981 edition of Elle and he photographed Olivia Newton-John for her Physical album in 1981. Five years later, he would replicate that cover pose with Madonna for her 1986 release True Blue.

Ritts was openly gay.[3]

Later notable photographs

During the 1980s and 1990s, Ritts prominently photographed celebrities in various locales throughout California.[4] Some of his subjects during this time included Elizabeth Taylor,[5] Vincent Price,[6] Madonna,[7] Denzel Washington,[8] Johnny Depp,[9] Ronald Reagan,[10] David Bowie,[11] Courtney Love,[12] Liv Tyler,[13] Matthew McConaughey,[14] Britney Spears,[15] and Michael Jackson.

He also took many fashion and nude photographs of fashion models Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford, including "Tatjana, Veiled Head, Tight View, Joshua Tree, 1988."

Ritts' work with them ushered in the 1990s era of the supermodel and was consecrated by one of his most celebrated images, "Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989" taken for Rolling Stone Magazine.

He also worked for Interview, Esquire, Mademoiselle, Glamour, GQ, Newsweek, Harper's Bazaar, Rolling Stone,[4] Time, Vogue, Allure, Vanity Fair, Details, and Elle. Ritts took publicity portraits for Batman, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin which appeared on magazine covers and merchandise throughout the 1990s.

He published books on photography for fashion designers including, Giorgio Armani, Revlon, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth Arden, Donna Karan, Cartier, Guess, Maybelline, TAG Heuer, Lacoste, Gianfranco Ferré, Levi's, Victoria's Secret, Gap, Acura, CoverGirl, Lancôme, and Valentino.

From 1996 to 1997 his work was displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, attracting more than 250,000 people to the exhibit,[16] and in 2003 a solo exhibition was held at the Daimaru Museum, in Kyoto, Japan.

Music videos

The first video he directed was Madonna in "Cherish" in 1989. In 1991, he won two MTV Video Awards for his work on music videos by Janet Jackson and Chris Isaak. Ritts also directed the music video for Michael Jackson's "In the Closet", which featured supermodel Naomi Campbell. Ritts also worked on other projects, including directing and acting, on Mariah Carey's video collection #1's (1999), Jennifer Lopez's sepia video "Ain't It Funny", Janet Jackson's Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1996), Intimate Portrait: Cindy Crawford (1998), Murder in the First (1995), Britney Spears' "Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know" (2001) and Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes".


On December 26, 2002, Ritts died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 50.[17] According to Ritts' publicist, "Herb was HIV-positive, but this particular pneumonia was not PCP (pneumocystis pneumonia), a common opportunistic infection of AIDS. But at the end of the day, his immune system was compromised."[18]



Music videos


  • Pictures, Twin Palms Publishers, 1988
  • Men/Women, Twin Palms Publishers, 1989
  • Duo, Twin Palms Publishers, 1991
  • Notorious, Little, Brown and Company/Bulfinch Press, 1992
  • Africa, Little, Brown and Company/Bulfinch Press, 1994
  • Work, Little, Brown and Company/Bulfinch Press, 1996
  • Herb Ritts, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, 1999
  • Herb Ritts L.A. Style, Getty Publications, 2012



  1. ^ a b c Bellafante, Ginia (December 27, 2002). "Herb Ritts, Photographer Of Celebrities, Is Dead at 50". The New York Times. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  2. ^ Abrams, Melanie (June 23, 2011). "Lens that defined a generation". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  3. ^ https://www.poz.com/article/Putting-On-The-Ritts-542-3918
  4. ^ a b Loder, Kurt (23 April 1987), "Stardust Memories", Rolling Stone (498): 74–77, 80, 82, 168, 171
  5. ^ "Elizabeth Taylor, Malibu, 1991". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  6. ^ "Vincent Price, Los Angeles, 1989". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  7. ^ "Madonna I, San Pedro, 1990". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  8. ^ "Denzel Washington, Malibu, 1995". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  9. ^ "Johnny Depp, Beverly Hills, 1991". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  10. ^ "Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles, 1993". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  11. ^ "David Bowie, Los Angeles, 1993". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "Courtney Love, Culver City, 1995". HerbRitts.com. March 6, 1995. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  13. ^ "Liv Tyler, El Mirage, 1996". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  14. ^ "Matthew McConaughey, Palmdale, 1996". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  15. ^ "Britney Spears, Los Angeles, 2001". HerbRitts.com. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  16. ^ Edgers, Geoff (2007-04-05). "Breaking: Herb Ritts Money, Art to MFA50". Boston.com. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  17. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (2002-12-27). "Herb Ritts, Photographer Of Celebrities, Is Dead at 50". nytimes.com. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  18. ^ Signorile, Michelangelo (January 22, 2001). "Ritts Coverage: Don't Hide the AIDS Truths". windycitymediagroup.com. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  19. ^ "Chrysler Museum of Art". chrysler.org. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Exhibits". rockhall.com. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  21. ^ a b Christian, Scott (13 March 2015). "Herb Ritts: old-school glamour's last stand". Retrieved 7 March 2017 – via The Guardian.
  22. ^ "Herb Ritts". mfa.org. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Exhibition HERB RITTS: SUPER – artist, news & exhibitions – photography-now.com". photography-now.com. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Herb Ritts' Iconic Photographs of the '90s "Supers" Are Back". vogue.me. 29 January 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.

External links