LOOK: Time Honors George Pitts’ Life With Collection of His Iconic Photographs

By Sameer Rao Mar 07, 2017

Photographer George Pitts died last Saturday (March 4) of what the Society of Publication Designers’ announcement calls a "prolonged illness." Even if you don’t know his name, Time magazine’s tribute to his career is a reminder that you certainly know his work.

Published March 6, the digital memorial is a stroll through hip-hop and pop culture history, with images from several of Pitts’ shoots for Vibe and Life magazines alongside recollections from friends and colleagues. As the tribute notes, Pitts cataloged the development of hip-hop in his role as Vibe’s founding director of photography from 1993 to 2004. His glossy, fashion-conscious editorial shoots set a photography standard for magazines in the category, and he built on his legacy during his tenure at Life, where he worked until it shuttered in 2007. His photography also featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Paris Review, Vice and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and he served as director of photographic practices at New York City’s Parsons School of Design.

Some excerpts from his ex-colleagues’ remarks: 

  • "My first shoot for ‘Vibe,’ I had to recreate a scene of groupies in a hotel room. I remember being so nervous, but he let me cast my friends in the photograph. I didn’t even know how to write up a proper invoice, so he helped me with that too. The second assignment he gave me was to photograph Lil Kim. Again I was terrified, but he was so supportive and had such faith in young artists. I am forever grateful to him." — Gillian Laub, Photographer
  • "…he listened and watched and found out things about people. He pushed you to think deeper, to do things you never knew you could. I failed him many times, there was a cover that the world never saw because of me (André 3000 and Madeleine Albright together), But George never gave up, he just gave me another cover to do." — Caroline Smith, First Look Media
  • "I wouldn’t have the passion or consciousness I try to bring to photography if it wasn’t for this one person, and it’s bonkers to think I’m one of hundreds. And wow, how wonderful it is that he is truly ever-shining. I can’t wait to continue to honor his legacy in photography and just in my life every day. I love you very much and we’re all so lucky." — Elizabeth Renstrom, Vice

The tribute features more than a decade of Vibe and Life shoots depicting the likes of Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, Ledisi and more. Check it out here.