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J. Paul Getty Museum

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Before he was executive director of the Herb Ritts Foundation, Mark McKenna was renowned photographer Herb Ritts’s camera assistant. In a recent interview Mr. McKenna tells about the making of the iconic image of the model Christy Turlington seen from the back, in a keyhole of white surrounded by the dramatic shadow of black fabric pulling upwards. He recalls that Ritts was “an incredible director of people…not just telling them what to do, but getting them to step in and be a part of the process.”

On this day, there was a sense of “play” in the air, despite the important client, Versace. Out in the Mojave desert, in full sun on the dry lake bed, El Mirage, with a small but able team, Ritts was in his element. As the model Christy Turlington held the fabric in front of her, the crew tied the outer corners to weighted stands on either side. All at once, the desert wind blew up the cone of fabric like an inside-out balloon, and Ritts had his moment. Minutes afterward, a storm rolled in and the crew rushed to clear out. The exhibition Herb Ritts: L.A. Style, opened April 3rd at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and is accompanied by a book of the same name from Getty Publications.

Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage, 1990. © Herb Ritts Foundation

Christy Turlington, Versace 3, Milan, 1991. © Herb Ritts Foundation

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Point Dume, 1987. © Herb Ritts Foundation

Male Nude with Socks I, Los Angeles (Mark Findlay), 1990. © Herb Ritts Foundation

Greg Louganis, Hollywood, 1985. Herb Ritts Foundation

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