The Granite Tower
The Man Who Redefined Beauty
Jeon So Hyeon  |
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승인 2016.04.08  17:54:37
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▲ True Blue cover photo. Photographed by Lee So Young.

No matter how attractive one may be, there is one place where even the most beautiful women and charismatic men might feel pressured—Hollywood. In order to remain popular, actors need to look their best. Some of that beauty is captured in photography. The Herb Ritts: Work photo exhibition epitomizes the artistry of photography and evinces how a single photo can instantly mesmerize someone. 

Herbert “Herb” Ritts Jr. was an American fashion photographer whose specialty was black and white photography and portraits. His career as a photographer started later in his life as a hobby in 1976 until he gained prominence as a photographer in 1978. Soon Ritts was being asked by celebrities to take their photographs. In 1986, Ritts would take one of his most famous photos—Madonna's cover pose for her album True Blue (1986).

As soon as visitors step into the exhibition, they are greeted by a short biography of Ritts and some of his first photos in Hollywood. Starting from his early photos of Richard Gere that helped make Gere a star to the famous True Blue cover photo of Madonna, the exhibition captures a decorated era of Hollywood in great fashion. 


▲ A cover photo of the exhibition. Photographed by Lee So Young.

Visitors can also witness the influence Ritts had on Hollywood. In a time when women’s sensuality was still emphasized more than that of men, Ritts broke the common practice in Hollywood by directly addressing a man's beauty. Ritts’ photography redefined the beauty of men’s bodies and highlighted sexuality of men which people back then thought were only visible in women. 

The exhibition also includes photos of well-known figures in the political, athletic, and artistic fields. His models therefore included people such as Michael Jordan, Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandella, all of whom who had little to do with photography. Ritts’ photography sensationally captures the unique features of different influential figures into photos that combine artistry and popularity. 

Ritts is said to have redefined the nude, and one section of the show is dedicated to such works. Although Ritts was gay, he portrays the beauty of both men and women in his nudes. Mostly working outdoors, Ritts worked to relate the human body with natural surroundings. The resulting photos were vivid yet elegant.

His use of male models in his nude photography was somewhat controversial. A fully nude male model was just gaining acceptance in the worlds of photography and fashion, and nude men were rarely photographed without women in the frame. However, Ritts successfully captured the elegance of males’ bodies by photographing them fully nude and without women.

Herb Ritts was also famous in the field of fashion. Some of his most famous photographs in fashion was Jump. Just like his photographs in other fields, this photo was a stepping stone in redefining the beauty and the sexuality of men. Some other works of his such as Fred with Tires and Joshua Tree altered the media’s point of view toward body exposures. Most of his photos in the field of fashion contain a lot of nudity and body exposures, which the mass media frowned upon. His photos however played a role in defining the beauty of high body exposures.

However, Ritts did also make use of female models in the field of fashion. Instead of creating one common characteristic for all women, Ritts tried to emphasize the characteristic unique to each person. Through this technique, Ritts attempted to capture women’s different types of attraction points and beauty. 

The exhibition also displays some of the covers he shot for famous magazine covers such as Playboy and the Rolling Stone. Each of the photo displayed in these sections emphasizes how influential Ritts was in highlighting the beauty of people’s body. Some of the quotes taken from Ritts’ actual models also underline how great a photographer he was.

Although visitors are mostly prohibited from taking photos inside the exhibition hall, they can take photos of some of Ritts’ works. In addition, some of Ritts' most historical photographs are accompanied by auditory additional explanation of his achievements and the significance behind each photo. This is available for those who apply for a docent program and these will help visitors fully appreciate Ritt’s achievements. 

“I love a picture in which the reference of who is portrayed doesn’t matter,” Herb Ritts, said in an interview. “You can be a very famous man, or not a famous man.” The Herb Ritts: Work photo exhibition is a meaningful experience for anyone who seeks to appreciate the beauty in everyone.

Exhibition Information

Sejong Cultural Center Art Hall Floor 1
Open Hours: 10:30 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. (Tickets are sold until 8:30 P.M.)
Period: February 5 to May 2
Adults (age 19-64): 13,000 Won
University students (student identification needed): 10,000 Won
Students (ages 7-18): 8,000
Won Infants (ages 5-6): 6,000 Won


▲ Magazine cover photos taken by Herb Ritts. Photographed by Lee So Young.
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