Herb Ritts in Black + White

Herb Ritts

“I think a lot of the time these days people are so concerned about having the right camera and the right film and the right lenses and all the special effects that go along with it, even the computer, that they’re missing the key elements [of photography].”

There’s been a lot of retrospective thought on the late HERB RITTS legacy this year and, to be quite honest, I’ve had my dedication to him in the post carousel for months now and I’m finally getting around to talking about him.

Like Steven Meisel, Herb’s photography and videos have left an indelible mark and helped define the 90s for me. Herb created memorable fashion campaigns for brands like Revlon, Versace, and Chanel, but he also captured timeless and often intimate portraits of celebrities in a way that had not been done before. Some images showed vulnerability, while others had more attitude.

In reviewing Herb’s body of work, you realize that it not only stands the test of time, but also challenged the status quo and freed us from antiquated thinking by daring us to see the world through his eyes.

Remember the controversial [at the time] Kate Moss and Marky Mark underwear ads for Calvin Klein? Or the iconic black + white Janet Jackson video “Love Will Never Do Without You” featuring Djimon Hounsou? Or maybe you danced to the adorable “Cherish” video Herb directed for Madonna? Or you own Prince’s greatest hits CD The Hits where Herb captures the artist in exquisite profile? See, without knowing it, you were influenced or inspired by Herb’s work too.

Many of Herb’s most iconic photographs were shot with a film noir aesthetic and I thought I’d share a few of my all-time favorites:

Richard Gere

Herb got his first major break as a photographer shooting his friend Richard Gere at a gas station in the California desert in 1977.

Cindy Crawford

Denzel Washington

Elizabeth Taylor

Dizzy Gillespie

Helena Christensen

John Travolta

Julia Roberts

Matthew McConaughey


Naomi Campbell


Ben Affleck

This Mojave Desert photo shoot with actor-director Ben Affleck was Herb’s last, he passed away a week later from complications due to pneumonia.

Photos © Herb Ritts Foundation

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