Testino’s work has been described as exotic, exquisite, and polished. He enhances the attractiveness of his subject with his camera and sense of artistry and fashion. Most of his images are sensual and intimate rather than sexual. His story narrative consists of freedom, color, energy, and movement where he oscillates between theatricality and minimalism. His work consists of capturing moments and expressions rather than postures. The way he builds a narrative is based on the capturing unprepared and spontaneous moments as he states “Most of these pictures belong to moments when nobody has asked me to do anything. It’s just my own need to capture something, to document something, to communicate.”
“My pictures are my eyes. I photograph what I see and what I want to see”. Mario Testino
Mario Testino had his breakthrough in the fashion industry when he was commissioned to photograph Princess Diana for her famous and now iconic Vanity Fair cover. “I wanted the world to see her kindness, her humility.” Her portraits of Lady D not only launched him into international superstardom but helped him established a relationship with the Royal Family as he was chosen in 2010 to commission Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement photographs.
However, life for Mario Testino was very different before his breakthrough. Born in Lima, Peru in 1954 to a middle-class family of six children, young Mario originally intended to become a priest. He later fluctuated between Economics, Law, and International Relations as he intended to find himself. However, his interest in fashion started early, he stated that “ever since I was a little kid I had an obsession with fashion… I was drawn to the thought of representing a personality solely through fashion even without a camera.” “I found my road to the fashion world by chance for what in retrospective, I imagine that there was an element of desire and destiny in me.”After failed attempts to follow a career path he actually enjoyed, Testino moved to England in 1976 where he enrolled in a photography academy where he was immediately drawn to fashion photography.
Mario Testino has become synonymous with his muse Kate Moss. The two met at a party in Rio de Janeiro when she was 15, and Testino was immediately drawn to her. When asked about their friendship Mario stated that “Kate represents the greatest type of woman, an icon of our time… She is not only an image of beauty but a lifestyle, an attitude.” Ever since then, their work became a friendship that has lasted 20 years. “He was the first person to shoot me sexy,” remembers Moss. “Before that, people used to see me as the English waif.” Testino was the official for Kate’s wedding and a private archive of photos was published by Testino in her honor: Kate Moss by Mario Testino. This archive of transcendent fashion photographs reveals early days backstage at the shows to behind-the-scenes glimpses of the most iconic editorials they continue to produce for the world’s most respected magazines.
These days Testino has a non-stop schedule working on both sides of the Atlantic session after session. Most of the time, he photographs fresh faces as he claims to discover new upcoming supermodels through Vogue as Testino has the ability to make someone look better than what they could hope for, according to Alexandra Shulman.
“I think personality is the most important. Beauty is secondary. No one will follow you simply by being pretty”. – Mario Testino
Born a hard worker, Testino does not seem wore out since he stated “It’s amazing; I adore it. It’s exciting. Every day a new city, new people, new everything. I can’t get enough of it.” His energy and charisma may be rooted in his life ethic. In 2012 The Guardian interview Testino stated “My favorite words are possibilities, opportunities, and curiosity…I think if you are curious you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.” His latest project includes MATE (Mario Testino Association) in his hometown. This museum is dedicated to his most prolific works as well as praising his Peruvian heritage.
However, his life is not painted in a pretty pink after all. At the beginning of 2018, various supermodels have sued Testino for sexual exploitation and sexual misconduct that roots back to the late 1990s. Consequently, he has been dropped from Conde Nast and Burberry. In addition, recent news reveals that he has been removed from the candidates for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s official wedding photographs where he has the front-runner for the job.
Mario Testino’s photographs are not synonymous with perfection but the capture of a very precise moment where energy dwells. The legacy in the fashion industry for decades to come might come to an end. The future is unknown and his legacy is left untold. For now, Testino has dwelled into silence and it is unsure if he is ever going to make a comeback into the fashion world but hey, everyone loves a good comeback story.
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