Mario Testino: Photography’s Life of the Party
By Jessica Michault
It’s pretty much impossible not to fall under the charm of renowned photographer Mario Testino. The gregarious and fun loving Peruvian has a quick witted banter, an infectious laugh and always has an unending well of juicy “insider” stories to tell. Over his more then thirty years as one of the fashion’s worlds most respected photographers. Testino is at the pinnacle of his game.
“I like the idea that I have lived my life rather than read a book about the life of somebody else. And I try to do that in my work as much as I can,” said Testino about his approach to photography.
Born in Lima, Peru, the oldest of six children, Testino dabbled with the idea of becoming a priest in his youth and later studied for a degree in economics before stumbling into his calling as a photographer while living in London in the 1970s. His vast body of work has seen him shooting countless magazine covers, craft iconic and eye catching ad campaigns and embrace the digital age with a voracious devotion to his Instagram account.
Over the years Testino has gained a reputation for his perceptive portraiture work. Famously shooting Diana, Princess of Wales for a Vanity Fair photo shoot in 1997, which would sadly be the monarch’s last before her untimely death.
He has gone on to shoot her son Prince William and Catherine Middleton for their official engagement portrait as well as candid family shoots with the arrival of each of their children. He has now become the photographer of choice for many royals around the world.
Testino is almost never seen without a camera in his hand. He is contently shooting the world around him. Capturing its beautiful people when they are “on” – say for the cover of a Vogue magazine – but also when they let their guard down and get real.
“It’s so funny. I was looking at a photograph of Jennifer Lopez at the Versace show and it’s interesting how I looked at all the pictures the first time in front of all the photographers and then she just turns around to me, it’s nothing but when you look at it, she knows you. It changes everything.”
That familiarity with the people he photographs is perhaps Testino’s greatest secret weapon. He is able to put almost anyone at ease and has become known for creating images that have a sense of a nonchalant glamour about them. But at the same time feel personal.
That is not to say that the official photo shoots Testino does are not highly orchestrated. He is known throughout the industry for being very hands on and involves himself in every step of the process, from concept to final image.
“For me it determines what I’m saying. I want to be as precise as I can. Because I’ve been trained for so many years, my eyes are trained to scan an image so for me nothing is out of place,” he said.