Up Close with Herb Ritts
Part of the appeal of Herb Ritts’ photography is its inherent timeless classicism—the way his images deftly immortalize the moment at hand. The L.A.-native, who passed away at age 50 in 2002, was a ubiquitous presence in the ’80s and ’90s at the height of the supermodel era, shooting now-iconic images for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and this magazine (Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna, Denzel Washington, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Gere, and countless others got the Interview cover treatment with Ritts). He also snapped ads for Chanel, Versace, and Calvin Klein, including the brand’s landmark underwear ad with Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg, and directed some of the era’s most defining music videos, like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” all imbued with his singular visual vernacular: stark and sensual black and white.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of their seminal 1996 Ritts retrospective “Herb Ritts: WORK, ” the Museum of Fine Arts Boston presents a new exhibition, “Herb Ritts,” on view until November 8, offering “a new, fresh perspective,” on the photographer, according to curator James Leighton. Divided into two arenas, one focuses on Ritts’ treatment of the human form, the other, on his work with celebrity personalities. The exhibition takes into account Ritts’ position on the brink of fine art and commerce, showcasing his commercials, music videos for “Wicked Game” and Madonna’s “Cherish,” and various ephemera, including contact sheets and work prints. “We really wanted to showcase his style, not just as a photographer, but as an image-maker,” Leighton explains. “When he was working he was really thinking beyond the lifespan of a photograph for his clients. He was trying to create a timeless image.”
“HERB RITTS” IS ON VIEW UNTIL NOVEMBER 8 AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS BOSTON, 465 HUNTINGTON AVENUE, BOSTON, MA.