bal harbour blog

Icon: Mario Testino

Mario Testino, photographed by Ben Tietge.

By Sherri Balefsky

Life is great right now for Mario Testino, who is, quite possibly, the most influential fashion photographer in the world. The Lima-born lensman has shot the majority of Hollywood’s top models and A-List celebrities, not to mention he has been the choice photographer for the royal family for over three decades. (He famously shot Princess Diana for Vanity Fair in what became one of her final photo shoots before her tragic death.) He’s also been at the helm of many high-profile campaigns for leading fashion houses including Chanel, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. Marking a bold departure from his work in fashion, Testino’s latest installment, “Alta Moda,” features a series of portraits of native Peruvians from the mountainous region of Cusco wearing traditional festive attire. We caught up with the busy photographer to discuss the exhibition.

alta moda mario testino photograph

How did you come up with the idea for “Alta Moda”?
I discovered an archive of costumes when I was in Cusco in 2007 working for British Vogue. I learned about them—how some of the dresses were worn for festivities and some were worn in everyday life by the people from the region. What I found interesting, aside from their amazing beauty, was how every detail in these dresses was symbolic of something or told a story about the person that would wear it. I decided I would document them… without any real end goal. But after a few years of going back to Cusco and photographing more of the people from the region, I decided to make an exhibition of the images.

peruvian dress mario testino photograph

Why did you choose “Alta Moda” as the title?
It’s Spanish for “high fashion.” The Cusco region has one of the highest elevations in Peru; but the title also takes inspiration from another high fashion—that of haute couture. When I first exhibited these photographs at MATE, my museum in Lima, I borrowed five haute-couture dresses from Christian Dior that John Galliano had designed following a trip he made to Peru that season (Autumn/Winter 2005). The Dior dresses took inspiration from the types of dresses I had photographed, so this felt like a great link between the past and the present.

alta moda peru traditions mario testino

What do you hope visitors take away from “Alta Moda”?
One of my biggest ambitions with these pictures, and with MATE in Lima, is that we can take them around the world and bring some Peruvian culture and tradition to people that have maybe never seen anything like this before. I am very keen to highlight Peruvian culture on a world stage.

installation alta moda mario testino

What upcoming projects are you working on?
So many things! But one of the next big things I am working on is a book of my pictures of men.

What is your favorite part about your job?
I am very fortunate in my line of work that I get to meet and work with some incredible people.

“Alta Moda” is on view at Dallas Contemporary through December 21;


you may also like

Caftan Queen

Marie France Van Damme makes chic look effortless.

Fashion Feed

Gretchen Röehers's whimsical take on Fashion Week.

David Downton: Portraiture Perfection

The British illustrator inks out Fashions most glamorous faces.

Cooking the Books

Chef Missy Robbins dishes on her first cookbook: “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… Life!”
back to top