Magazine article The New Yorker

Model Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

Model Life

Article excerpt

Herb Ritts, who died suddenly last month, at the age of fifty, grew famous for photographing the famous (and notorious for pairing strong, nude men in tender embraces). He made his subjects look vulnerable, sensual, and mythic all at once: the beauty after brain surgery (Elizabeth Taylor); the prankish rapper grabbing his Calvin Kleins (Mark Wahlberg); the grunge widow baring her implant scar (Courtney Love). He liked dramatic natural light, big open spaces, and lots of skin--sweating, mud-caked, muscular, wet--and he had a gift for capturing the naked and the nearly so in their wittiest mood.

Ritts grew up in Brentwood, California, unintimidated by Hollywood celebrity. (His next-door neighbor, Steve McQueen, babysat occasionally, if you can call riding motorcycles in the desert babysitting.) But he only lucked into photography: in 1978, he and an actor friend were killing time in a garage and Ritts, who'd been fooling with a camera in his off hours, shot a few rolls of his friend behind a Buick LeSabre. …

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