March 24, 2012

Herb Ritts' picture of Cindy Crawford, Namoi Cambell

From Cindy Crawford to Naomi Campbell, new exhibition shows how Herb Ritts' photography 'came to define the era of the supermodel'

Pop culture and fashion of the Eighties and Nineties was characterised in large part by the rise of the supermodel and is best illustrated by the images of Cindy, Naomi, Christy and friends that dominated every billboard, magazine cover and music video of the time.

Many believe that no one captured the essence of that period better than Herb Ritts, the iconic photographer and director who died ten years ago from AIDS at age 50.

And so as a tribute to the legendary artist who was credited with bridging the gap between art and commerce, the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles will open an exhibit featuring a carefully curated selection of his work early next month.

According to the New York Times, though some have called Ritts 'formulaic, he 'belongs in the tradition of Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Irving Penn.'

With a career that began in the late 1970's, the California-born Angelino rose to fame with his portraits and editorial shoots of fashion stars and celebrities.

Ritts pointed his lens at Madonna, Michael Jackson, Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise to name but a few of the famous faces he snapped, publishing his work in such publications as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview and Rolling Stone.

He applied his signature simplicity of composition and strength of form to advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Chanel and Gianni Versace among others, that are still instantly recognisable today.

And in the late Eighties, he turned his attention to the moving image directing adverts and music videos to huge critical acclaim.

The Los Angeles exhibit has been curated by Paul Martineau who described Ritts as an impulsive photographer.

'He wasn’t someone who had everything scripted,' he told the New York Times. 'He approached shoots organically.'

In a press release Mr Martineau said: 'Herb Ritts embraced his life in Los Angeles in every aspect and that is evident in his photographs. You can feel the Southern California light and warmth in his work and, without question, it influenced his pictures.'

The show is the result of months spent sorting through almost 1,000 boxes of photographs at the Herb Ritts Foundation and will include a 1993 shot of Cindy Crawford on a Malibu beach and one of actor Djimon Hounsou with an octopus on his head.

But a majority of the selected works are of the lesser known faces; the dancers, athletes and nudes that showcase his non-commercial talent.

'I didn’t want as many celebrities because I felt they had been given a lot of time,' explained Mr Martineau. 'I was interested in the most elegant work rather than the most whimsical.'

The exhibition will open on April 3 and run through to August 26 at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.