Herb Ritts: LA Style at the Getty

Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles, 1989, Herb Ritts, platinum print. © Herb Ritts Foundation (Getty Museum)

Following in the footsteps of  other important fashion photographers such as George Hurrell, Horst P. Horst, Louise Dahl Wolfe, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon, 1980s photographer Herb Ritts (1952–2002) is now the center of an exhibition titled Herb Ritts: LA Style, through August 26, 2012, at the Getty Center, West Pavillion in Los Angeles. Best known for his fashion photography, nudes and celebrity portraits in dazzling black and white his photographs seem to search for and elevate pure beauty.

The online component of the exhibition includes a brief overview, and of the above photograph, explains:

“To show off this dress by Issey Miyake, Ritts selected a dark backdrop and had model Karen Alexander adopt a ballet-like pose. Lighted from above, the semitranslucent fabric both reveals and obscures the contours of the model’s body. The photographer’s choice of the platinum printing process over the less expensive and more common gelatin silver process gives the photograph a significantly wider range of tones and a luxurious matte surface.”

Greg Louganis, Hollywood, Herb Ritts, 1985. © Herb Ritts Foundation

Tomorrow evening, visual studies scholar Jonathan Katz will give a lecture titled “Aide/AIDS-mémoire: Herb Ritts and the Picture of Health.” His lecture will, in part, resituate “Ritts’s work in the social and cultural context of the worst years of the plague” and argue “that his commercial and critical import stem in large part from the fact that he was an openly gay photographer who nonetheless proffered a utopian dream…”


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