Herb Ritts

(Mostly about male photography.)

It begins with a mounted copy of this photo, which was secreted in Kirjasto Zwicky (the library condo) until Kim Darnell brought it to me and we hung it in a convenient place here on Ramona St. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall who the photographer was and it was too large to scan in, so I resorted to describing it in the lgbt precincts of Facebook:


Notes: (1) I couldn’t take a photo of it with my cellphone, because I don’t have one. Please refrain from commenting on this fact.

(2) Kim was concerned that the phono was too racy for the public parts of the condo (note especially the moose-knuckle jumper, #2). But I used to have racy homoerotic calendars on display in public, and there’s a nicely phallic salt/pepper shaker in the mix, and collages just as racy as #1 (but short of actual genital exposure), so full steam ahead.

(3) In no time at all, Rod Williams supplied the crucial data: Herb Ritts’s “Jump, Paradise Cove, 1987”.

(4) Aside from displaying four really hot bodies, the photo conveys the men’s great joy in the sheer physicality of their leaping.

(5) Although I’ve admired Ritts’s work (and sent postcard versions of a number of his photos to friends), I somehow have none of the book collections of his work and have mentioned him here only a few times, in passing. Remedy time.

The briefest of boiled-down Wikipedia sketches:

Herbert “Herb” Ritts Jr. (August 13, 1952 – December 26, 2002) was an American fashion photographer who concentrated on black-and-white photography and portraits, often in the style of classical Greek sculpture.

His work is often very carefully composed, balanced, indeed sculptural. But sometimes jokey or deliberately odd. And fairly early on he moved from fairly straightforward high-fashion photography to the display of celebrities, often in outrageous poses or settings.

A big part of his work features women, but here I’m focusing on his images of men, starting with his initial dip into celebrities: “Richard Gere, San Bernardino, 1977”, posed as a working-class lout:


Then three carefully constructed images from the 1980s, using models rather than celebrities: “Fred with Tires, Hollywood 1984”:


“Tony with Rope, Los Angeles 1986”:


and then #1.

Finally, the most sculptural image in this set, with two men from the San Francisco Ballet (Pierre-François Vilanoba and Yuri Possokhov) arranged so as to make a circle with their bodies, in “Pierre and Yuri, Los Angeles 1999”:


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