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Ritts, Herb (1952-2002)  
page: 1  2  

Two of Ritts's books, however, speak to issues of race and sexuality. The photos in Africa depict the daily lives of indigenous peoples of eastern Africa. Ritts was pleased when Nelson Mandela praised the book, commenting that "it reminded him of his childhood."

Duo celebrated the relationship of 1983 Mr. Universe Bob Paris and his then-partner Rob Jackson.

Ritts's male nudes have been described as having "a profoundly intimate feeling." The photographer himself felt that his pictures reflected a "classic sensuality" rather than a "gay sensibility." Nevertheless, although his images are widely admired by mainstream audiences, they have a particular appeal to gay viewers.

Ritts was always candid about his own sexuality. He realized that he was gay while he was in college. He soon came out to his parents, who were accepting and supportive.

In 1993 Ritts appeared in The Gay '90s, an NBC news special about the life of gays in the last decade of the twentieth century. After the program aired, he received many letters, some from gay teens who had contemplated suicide. Ritts stated that he had not considered himself a role model, but "you suddenly get one of these letters, [and] you realize how important it is that there be encouragement for gay people."

Although he is best known for his still photographs, Ritts also directed music videos, including two MTV Award-winners, Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" (Best Female Video, 1991) and Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" (Best Male Video, 1991). In addition, he directed Madonna's "Cherish" (1989), in which the singer cavorted on a beach with "hunky mermen," as well as videos for Shakira, 'NSYNC, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears.

Ritts will also be remembered for his vigorous fund-raising efforts in the quest for a cure for AIDS, in particular for his efforts on behalf of amFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Ritts kept working until just a few days before his death. Among his last projects were the cover shot for the March 2003 issue of Vanity Fair and a photo session with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Ritts died in Los Angeles on December 26, 2002, of complications of pneumonia. He had been diagnosed as HIV-positive years before, and although his death was not specifically HIV-related, the virus had compromised his immune system.

He is survived by his partner, Erik Hyman, an entertainment attorney.

Linda Rapp

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Downey, Ryan J. "Photographer/Video Director Herb Ritts Dies at Age 50."

"Herb Ritts: Photographer Who Created a New Style for Pictures of Celebrities and Was Lauded by Hollywood Stars and Fashion Designers." The Daily Telegraph (London) (December 28, 2002): 27.

"Herb Ritts: Photographer Who Turned the Glamorous Celebrity Lifestyle into Art." The Guardian (London) (December 28, 2002): 21.

Isherwood, Charles. "Work in Progress." The Advocate 720 (November 12, 1996): 50.

"Photographer Herb Ritts's Death Came After Years of Battling HIV." The Advocate.

Rogers, Malcolm. "The Director's Perspective on Herb Ritts: Work." Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Stuever, Hank. "The Flash of Fame; Photographer Herb Ritts Blurred the Line Between Art and Commerce." The Washington Post (December 28, 2002): C1.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Ritts, Herb  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2003  
    Date Last Updated April 17, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, inc.  


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