The Photography Legends come back on the blog this week with Mario Testino, widely regarded as one of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of his times!
Alongside his 40 years of practices as a photographer, he has been internationally published in the best magazines of the world and redefined the artistic identity of big brands like Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors or Chanel!
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From Lima, Peru
Testino’s life couldn’t have started more differently from the hedonistic glamor portrayed in his imagery. He was born in Lima, Peru, in 1954 and was raised as a Catholic in a quite wealthy middle-class family. He went to private school and showed an affinity for fashion very young, even asking the family tailor to modify his school uniform to look different from the other kids.
In the early ’60s, Peruvian culture was still very conservative and traditional customs hugely dictated societal behavior. ¨¨His extravagant style put him at odds** with his peers and elders because he stood out so much, he was often ridiculed for what he wore.
Through his fashion choices, Testino felt rejected by the society and decided that a change was necessary. At the age of 22, he packed his bags and moved to London, hoping to find more freedom and acceptance in England. With no real plan in mind, he arrived very poor and spent a number of years living in a squat located in an abandonned hospital near Trafalgar Square.
London was a big shock for the young Mario Testino and he instantly became entranced with the culture and nightlife of the capital and especially Fashion. He finally felt at home.
To London, Great Britain
Like we said before, Mario Testino felt in love with London because of his sense of style. At the time it fluctuated wildly, taking in a variety of subcultures that ranged from punk to new romantic. There was a lot of individuality in the dress arrangements and Testino loved this display of color and personality.
Despite never having the urge before, he suddenly felt the desire to become a photographer during an apprenticeships at the studio of John Vickers & Paul Nugent. He arranged shoots and showed his portfolio to fashion magazines, but nobody wanted to meet him. They told him that his style was unoriginal and boring. He even made a living selling portfolios for £25, including hair and make-up, to models at this time.
In the gray and rainy London he started remembering about his teenage in South America from Peru to holidays in Brazil. He realized that all the memories of his home country, the colors, the dancing, the movement and the people were the things missing from his work. He changed his approach to give to his shots this spontaneity and vivacity.
Straight away, things changed. He got his first Vogue Britain commission in 1983. As his reputation for creating stylized aspirational imagery grew, he became highly sought after and worked for various international editions of Vogue.
Young, ambitious, and full of confidence, he moved to New York in 1986 in search of wider recognition. Although he enjoyed shooting editorials and looks, he was keen to make the transition into fashion advertising, emulating heroes such as Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton.
*Read on: Photography Legends: Sebastião Salgado
Style & Success
Mario Testino's style is transgressing, sensual more than sexual, he mixes masculinity and feminity, and his subjects are always very living and glamor!
That style made Testino worked and redefined some Fashion Big Houses to become a legend of photography.
His big break with a premier fashion house occurred in 1995, when Gucci’s newly appointed creative director, Tom Ford, asked him to shoot the label’s FW95 campaign.
The Italian brand was seen as old fashioned at this time. Ford’s job was to turn it around, give it a youthful, sexy edge and to do this he enlisted the help of Testino. They transformed the fortunes of Gucci, turning the failing business into a multi-billion-dollar company, due, in no small part, to Mario Testino’s work behind the camera.
For 40 years Testino is one of the most prestigious Fashion Photographer... He worked for all the big magazines, all the big fashion houses, photographed all the celebrities from Madonna, to Kate Moss to the British Royal Family with Lady Diana for Vanity Fair to the Wedding of Kate Middleton & Prince William...
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