HERB RITTS, American photographer was born on this date (d. 2004); Ritts started taking night classes in photography and decided to dedicate himself to the art in the mid to late 1970s. His first break into the business occurred as a result of taking portraits of his actor friend Richard Gere. These photos gained national exposure on the covers of many magazines. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he worked with magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue on portraits of famous people and artistic photos of models. Subjects of his black-and-white celebrity portraits included Kofi Annan, Cindy Crawford, Tenzin Gyatso (the Dalai Lama), Madonna, Jack Nicholson and Elizabeth Taylor. Herb was this writer’s first housemate when I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco and he shot my headshot.

Ritts started his long term collaboration with Madonna in 1984, when he shot the ad for her movie Desperately Seeking Susan. In 1986 Ritts shot the cover photo of Madonna’s True Blue album. He later ventured into the world of music video at a suggestion of Madonna and filmed her video “Cherish” with its beautiful images of mermen. He photographed Cindy Crawford for the July 1988, and October 1998 issues of Playboy. Ritts proved himself to be successful in directing music videos. In 1991 two of these, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, won MTV Video Music Awards. He co-directed Michael Jackson’s “In The Closet” video which featured supermodel Naomi Campbell. He also directed videos for Mariah Carey’s “My All”, Britney Spears’ “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know”, Jennifer Lopez’s “Ain’t It Funny” and Shakira’s “Underneath Your Clothes”, the latter was completed shortly before his death. He died in Los Angeles from pneumonia-related complications. He was HIV-positive. He is survived by his partner Erik Hyman.