“Many people who excel are self-taught.” — photographer Herb Ritts, who died at age 50 on this day in 2002. A native of Los Angeles, Ritts shot many of the now-iconic portraits of 1980s and 90s supermodels and celebrities that were originally published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, seven books and countless other publications through the years. He was largely self-taught, and got his start in the fashion industry serendipitously. He took a few night classes in photography, and practiced his craft by snapping pictures of his friend, the then-up-and-coming actor Richard Gere. Ritt’s images of Gere were published, and both men skyrocketed to fame, with Gere becoming the go-to leading man when a brooding dream boat was called for, and Ritts the natural choice when a publication wanted a timeless, unforgettable portrait.
In the late 1980s, Ritts morphed into directing film and videos, beginning with Madonna’s 1989 “Cherish” video. Set on a California beach and shot in black and white, the video of the singer dancing and rolling in the surf with a few mermen is like seeing a Ritts portrait in action. He worshipped the human form, capturing, for instance, Madonna’s clinging black dress for “Cherish,” and forever paying homage to ancient Greek statuary in his photography, with endless nudes of muscled, bronzed men and the perfect figures of the 80s-era supermodels, especially Cindy Crawford. You can see more of his work at the Herb Ritts Foundation website. To read more fabulous Fashion Statements, click here.
Credits: All images by Herb Ritts.