If you were to list the men who have helped elevate aesthetic sensibility since the '80s, you would certainly include the Californian Herb Ritts. He is a photographer who has worked on the Pirelli Calendar on two memorable occasions, in 1994 and 1999. On the latter occasion, Ritts imagined the past and the future for Pirelli, rolling back the decades and anticipating the new millennium with his image of Alek Wek, statuesque with a spiky punk crest.
Ritts' school of vintage photographic printing with silver-salt "gel" helped gain acceptability for the black and white nude, thanks to its new luminousness. To draw a comparison from the same era, Ritts achieved with the human form - male and female - what Irving Penn achieved with his still lifes. Namely to make the image three-dimensional, empathetic and Neoclassical.
Currently underway and ending on June 5 (Palazzo della Regione Lombardia in Milan) is an interesting exhibition with 100 images of famous people capturing the essence of Ritts' work. It includes portraits of significant icons of femininity from Madonna and Cindy Crawford to Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. They are complemented by famous portraits of men like Ronald Reagan and Nelson Mandela, Richard Gere and Michael Jackson.