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Sculpted in time

Cindy Crawford turns 50. Always beautiful, her essence is captured forever in an cult photo of Herb Ritts

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Sculpted in time

Cindy Crawford has just turned 50. The man behind her photographic fame is Herb Ritts. Both are part of the history of the Pirelli Calendar. And in particular of The Cal 1994, shot by Ritts on the beaches of Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Besides Cindy Crawford, the cast included the beautiful Helena Christensen, Karen Alexander and Kate Moss. But there are certain photographic portraits which not only endear a celebrity to people and endure in the the public imagination, but which also become visual archetypes, spawning numerous imitations. Obviously the original model is irreplaceable, but it is possible to attempt an inspired copy with the right pose, lighting and background. It becomes an artistic homage.

A classic example is the amazing photo that Herb Ritts took of the top model Cindy Crawford for the July 1988 cover of Playboy America: a topless shot in which the supermodel covers her nakedness with her hands. That shoot, the results of which rapidly circled the globe back in the day when communication still travelled at pre-internet speeds, also included some shots in a polka dot bikini, which was in turn a reference to Brigitte Bardot, whose 1970s aesthetic style was right back in fashion. For the ex-wife of the American idol Richard Gere, now married to Rande Gerber and mother of Presley and Kaia Gerber - mother and daughter protagonist of the cover of Vogue Paris April Issue - this was the photo that cemented her fame as the quintessential beauty of the golden years of fashion, namely the late '80s and early '90s. Crawford, who recently turned 50 and considers Ritts the artist who really launched her career, was occasionally asked to reprise the photo's mood. But some things are forever, and should never be revisited.

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