PUTTIN' ON THE RITTS: HERB RITTS IN TRUE L.A. STYLE AT THE GETTY -- Today the J. Paul Getty Museum at Getty Center in Los Angeles opened it doors for a special press preview of Herb Ritts: L.A. Style and Studio of Style was there to let you -- our stylish reader -- in on this exhibit that captures all the glamour, the excitement and the revolutionary style that was Herb Ritts! With so much cultural ground to cover found in this exhibition, we hardly know where to begin. And just when you think you know a lot about the career of this amazing photographer, it takes the thorough work and dedication of the staff of the Department of Photographs at The Getty to really put the worlds of fashion, celebrity portraiture, artistic nudes and film making (yes, Ritts did that too) into a perspective that simply makes you say "wow" -- and, thus, we are recommending you put this exhibition at the top of your "must do" list as of right now! With his hand in so many areas of Pop Culture, Ritts forged a style that became his own -- one that has been oft imitated but rarely duplicated in its strength, simplicity and composition. The subjects of his portraits, magazine ads, fashion catalogs, music videos and television commercials are legendary: Madonna; Elton John; Michael Jackson; Richard Gere; John Travolta; Barbra Streisand and Tina Turner (and we could go on ad infinitum with this who's who). And we certainly cannot overlook his work (and personal relationships) with such supermodels as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evanglista, Naomi Campbell and Tatjana Patitz -- resulting in images that combined fine art with commerce (his Versace ads, for example) and which also injected his MTV videos (Madonna, Janet Jackson, Chris Isaak) with a new-found sensuality that never existed until Ritts came along -- videos allowed his print imagery to come alive with motion. In a specially-built theater within the exhibition, one can view those videos along with nearly 50 of Ritts' commercials, including those for Lancôme (with Isabella Rossallini, shown above) and those infamous, flesh-driven spots for Calvin Klein's "Escape" perfume. And lest we forget his impact in the magazine editorial and book publishing realms, this exhibition clearly demonstrates this impact with actual magazines (check out Britney Spears on the cover of Vogue -- with the marked up print, a photo of the American flag and the final product created from the two), as well as books published by Twin Palms, not to mention Ritts' first camera on display which started this entire journey! Today at the press preview at The Getty, associate curator in the Department of Photographs Paul Martineau (shown above right) gave the most in-depth and insightful look inside the mind of Ritts through this immensely creative time in American photography -- and how Ritts drew upon photographic greats from the past (including May Ray, George Platt Lynes and Horst P. Horst among others) for inspiration that he transformed into a new kind of glamour and romance. At his height, Ritts was commanding $40,000 per photo shoot, plus $60,000 in expenses -- and his million-dollar contract with Condé Nast truly put him into a superstar stratosphere only experienced by a handful of photographers. The Getty exhibition is neatly organized into themes and it offers the opportunity to get a sense how prolific Ritts was in both ideas and the amount of photographs he did until his death from AIDS in 2002. As Studio of Style made its way through the exhibition today, we could only simply marvel at and be seduced by the iconic images that have become so ingrained in our collective cultural minds and that have transformed the artistic and commercial landscape of our times. In three words: go see it.
Press preview photos by Greg Firlotte
All images © Herb Ritts Foundation / Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation to The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Studio of Style extends a special thanks to: Getty Communications; and Jane Anderson