Currently, the Getty Center, Los Angeles, is showing an exhibition with photographs by Herb Ritts and a catalogue that celebrates his work. Herb Ritts produced portraits and editorial fashion for the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview and Rolling Stone. He also created advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Chanel, Donna Karan, Gap, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Levi’s, Pirelli, Polo, Ralph Lauren and Valentino among others.
Ritts was a commercial photographer, but the Getty Center is trying to present him as an artist, despite him never having been one. His images were created to suit the needs of clients – they were not unique. He never succeeded in transcending commercial photography, nor did he discover an imagery one may describe as art. He never studied art. Ok, this is not a prerequisite for creating photographs that provide inspiration beyond commercial aspects, but his images lacked inspiration, as they were often clichés.
He tried to imitate the imagery of Edward Weston, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Horst P. Horst. Collectors love his photographs and, according to artprice.com, auction prices rose between 2002 and 2008 but have since fallen significantly. In California, in particular, many people admire his work, but Ritts was never an artist. And the art market is all about supply and demand.