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Herb Ritts: Iconographer of Our Time

Hwrb Ritts isn't one to cower around the famous. If he were, he'd have a hard time persuading Johnny Depp to sit for hours on a kitchen stove, Madonna to mug as Mickey Mouse, or Michelle Pfeiffer to don a tuxedo and bow tie. In fact, a funny thing happened to Ritts on the way to the darkroom: While photographing some of today's most celebrated supermodels, film stars, artists, and politicians, he found stardom himself.

His portraits are recognizable not only for imaginative poses, but especially for their classic simplicity - a result of clean, pure lines and graceful, sensual forms portrayed in black and white. He celebrates the human form, both clothed and unclothed. Some are put off by his more provocative images; others see them as artful.

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Ritts's work has appeared in fashion magazines, music videos, movie ads, and TV commercials. And now it is entering the hallowed halls of museums. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is the site of his first major exhibit (through Feb. 9, 1997), and director Malcolm Rogers is tickled to be hosting such a contemporary show at his institution, known for extensive collections of French Impressionist paintings and Egyptian antiquities.

"It might be a little surprising his work should receive its first great homage in Boston, a city steeped in history and traditionalism," Mr. Rogers says. But he is confident the show will lure young folks to the fold: It "will bring in a new audience, and that group will help take the institution into the 21st century."

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