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Herb Ritts

Born in Brentwood, California December 13th 1952, Ritts studied economics and art history at Bard College. Herb Ritts began his photographic career in the late 70’s, and quickly gained a reputation as a master of art and commercial photography. In addition to producing portraits and editorial fashion work for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Interview, he also created successful advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Chanel, Donna Karan, Gap, Gianfranco Ferre, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Levis, Pirelli, Polo, Ralph Lauren and Valentino among others.


In his life and work, Herb Ritts was drawn to clean lines and strong forms. This graphic simplicity allowed his images to be read and felt instantaneously. His images often challenged conventional notions of gender or race. Social history and fantasy were both captured and created by his memorable photographs of noted persons in film, fashion, music, politics and society.

“Often you forget that your photographs are actually records of people in this part of the century who have had an impact politically, aesthetically, or socially. That’s what photography does.”- Herb Ritts, 1999.

Ritts made his directing debut in 1989 when collaborating with Madonna for the music video of her song “Cherish”. He went on to direct many influential and award winning commercials and music video work, including MTV Video Award’s for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You).

His fine art photography has been the subject of numerous museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide, with his works residing in significant public and private collections. The solo exhibition of his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1996, featuring 236 photographs, attracted more than 250,000 visitors. The success of the MFA Boston exhibition was followed by an acclaimed exhibition in 1999 at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris. In April 2012 the Getty Museum mounted Herb Ritts L.A. Style the first west coast solo musuem exhibtion of his work reaching attendance of 369,000 visitors. Between 2013-2018 the Herb Ritt:s In Full Light exhibition was well received during a seven venue European tour including the Maison Europeene de la Photographie in 2016.

Herb Ritts committed himself to HIV/AIDS related causes, and contributed to many charitable organizations, among them amfAR, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Project Angel Food, Focus on Aids, APLA, Best Buddies and Special Olympics. He was also a charter member on the Board of Directors for The Elton John Aids Foundation.

Herb Ritts passed away on December 26th, 2002 from complications of AIDS.

The Herb Ritts Foundation continues Herb’s longstanding support of HIV/AIDS charities by funding organizations that provide assistance and care for those affected by HIV and AIDS. As well, the Foundation promotes Herb’s great passion for photography through offering assistance to institutions with educational programs that advance the art of photography.

Original publications and exhibition catalogs include:

Pictures, 1988
Men/Women, 1989
Duo, 1991
Notorious, 1992
Africa, 1994
Kazu, 1995
Work, 1996
Foundation Cartier, 1999
Stern Fotografie Portfolio Nr. 58, 2010
The Golden Hour, 2010
L.A. Style, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012
In Full Light, 2013
Sejong Museum of Art, Korea, 2016
In Equlibrio (In Balance), 2016

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