Posted by: 4pack | January 17, 2009

“Ideal Shape” Update: Photographer Herb Ritts Highlighted In Video Featuring David Gandy, “World’s Best Looking Man”



A photographer whose subjects ranged from Madonna and Cindy Crawford to the Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan, Mr. Ritts, like George Platt Lynes, relied on clean, graphic compositions that often portrayed models and celebrities in the visual language of classical Greek sculpture.

”He shot exquisite, iconic photographs,” said Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, a magazine to which Mr. Ritts contributed dozens of cover images.

Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Mr. Ritts grew up in a prosperous family that owned a furniture business. After graduating from Bard College in upstate New York with a degree in economics in 1975, he returned to Los Angeles to work for his family’s company but was sidetracked when he started taking adult-education classes in photography.

One day in the late 1970’s, while waiting for a tire to be changed, he took pictures of a young actor friend he was driving around with. The actor was Richard Gere, and the pictures, ultimately published in various national magazines, served as the catalyst for Mr. Ritts’s career as a portraitist.

Mr. Gere remained one of his closest friends.

”His purpose was always to make you look good,” Mr. Gere said yesterday. ”He had an extremely elegant aesthetic. Some photographers are working so hard to be elegant that they pummel you with it, but to Herb it came effortlessly.

”Some photographers embalm their subjects, but he enlivened them.”

Unlike many other contemporary commercial photographers, Mr. Ritts imposed little of his own sense of artistry onto his pictures.

”The pictures didn’t go beyond what the subject would want,” said Etheleen Staley, a partner at the Staley Wise gallery in New York, which sold Mr. Ritts’s work.

”This is not to say that the pictures were always straightforward, because they often had a great deal of wit to them,” Ms. Staley added.

One of Mr. Ritts’s most memorable in this vein was a Vanity Fair cover that featured Ms. Crawford pretending to shave the face of the singer K. D. Lang, who was in drag.

Mr. Ritts’s work extended beyond celebrity portraiture to fashion photography, artful nudes and the direction of television commercials and music videos. He captured the 1980’s era of the supermodel with Amazonian images of Ms. Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell.

Mr. Ritts’s fashion work was distinguished most of all for its worship of the body. The clothes, or the setting, seemed almost peripheral. For that reason he was a favorite of designers, like Gianni Versace, whose clothes paid homage to the human form.


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