Herbert Ritts Jr. (August 13, 1952 – December 26, 2002) was an American fashion photographer and director known 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.
Early life and Career Born in Los Angeles, to a Jewish family, 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.
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. The picture gained Ritts some coverage and he began to be more serious about photography. He photographed Brooke Shields for the cover of the October 12, 1981 edition of Elle and he photographed Olivia Newton-John for her Physical album in 1981. Five years later he replicated that cover pose with Madonna for her 1986 release True Blue.
Ritts was openly gay.
Later notable photographs During the 1980s and 1990s, Ritts prominently photographed celebrities in various locales throughout California. Some of his subjects during this time included Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Vincent Price, Madonna, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Ronald Reagan, David Bowie, Courtney Love, Liv Tyler, Matthew McConaughey, Britney Spears, Björk, Michael Jackson, and Mariah Carey.
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 those models 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, 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, 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, as well as Jon Bon Jovi's music video featuring Cindy Crawford for "Please Come Home For Christmas". Ritts also worked on other projects, including directing and acting, on Mariah Carey's "My All"(1997), 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".