Mario Testino, a glamorous destiny

His first steps in the world of photography

The artist was born in Peru, from an Irish mother and an Italian father. And, when young, he actually wanted to become a priest … but from church to fashion photography, there was only one big step to take. And he did it.

At the Pontifical Catholic University, he studied law and then gave up his studies to discover London. But in order to stay there, he needed a student visa and because the only school that would accept such a visa was a school of photography, he enrolled in these studies.

It is, therefore, a bit by accident that Mario Testino learned the profession of photographer.

One must say that Peru is not a country where one can express oneself easily and freely. And there is no doubt that Mario had a lot on his heart that he has never been able to express. This censorship, he breaks it briskly.

A revenge on childhood?

He does what he was forbidden to do in his native country, such as dyeing his hair pink in order to be noticed and sell more easily books to models – and that for ridiculous sums. We must live well. He knows how to hold a camera and use it. The adventure begins.

Today, he is a celebrity portraitist regularly solicited by the most important titles of the magazine press (Vogue, Vanity Fair, V Magazine) and many fashion and beauty houses. He is also known for his advertising campaigns for Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. His covers for Vanity Fair of Princess Diana marked the memories.

Princess Diana by Mario Testino
Princess Diana by Mario Testino

The art of Testino

Testino’s talent came to the fore when he elected to be true to himself and to bring his Latin roots to European photography.

“I am Peruvian, and I spent part of my life in Brazil. I wasn’t happy and I tried for a long time to do as the French. It was absurd, I did not have the same culture or the same knowledge. It was from the moment I really accepted my country: to be a hothead, to love what is sexy, that my ‘magic’ was unveiled.”

He is always attentive to the needs and interest of the client, he immersed himself into their worlds:

“My job is to listen and engage the client’s reality, not my own. I try to understand what the brand is trying to say and to reduce it to an image so people understand what the company is all about. I’m creative but my essence is commerce, really. At the end of the day, we need to create imagery that people want to devour.”

This philosophy pays him well as, in turn, brands listen to him.

This is how he proposed models like Cara Delevingne rather than Kate Moss for Burberry or that he managed to bring forward Gisèle Büdchen at a time when bigger breasts were not fashionable in the fashion world.

Cara Delevingne by Mario Testino
Cara Delevingne by Mario Testino

Testino is not just a photographer. He is a gifted spotter of “IT” girls. A commercial zest also animates his artistic approach; but unlike other artists, he is aware of it and claims the pursuit of profit.

«I measure the success of a campaign to the economic growth of the company: if sales increase, this means that I am part of this success. It is something that obsesses me. »

Mario Testino and the Hashtags

He is one of the first to have used social networks. In 2015, for a few days, he took the reins of the Vogue Paris Instagram account. The Facebook accounts of the photographer and the one of Vogue Paris were also twinned. That’s a first. With a journal illustrated in pictures by the photographer for Vogue Paris via the hashtag “Couture by Testino”.

His trademark: Minimalist nudes, very simple images with a fetish object: the white towel.

Mario Testino's festish object: a white towel
Mario Testino’s festish object: a white towel

The towel is for Testino what the white shirt is to Lindbergh. The towel serves to maintain a natural modesty. The woman does not hide. She holds the favorite object of Testino, which allows her to confront the artist’s purpose without any embarrassment. It corresponds to the drapery of Michelangelo’s sculptures and the photographer knows how to give sophisticated reliefs to this simple fabric object. And like Michelangelo, he also has a passion for male models.

Witness the recent photograph of Neymar naked in his white towel.

Neymar by Mario Testino
Neymar by Mario Testino

The influence of the famous British photographer Cecil Beaton is clearly visible in the work of Testino. He borrows the simplicity of lines and points of view. A reduced staging and the search for the sincerity of the model. He adds his personal touch with bright colors and a sexy flash.

To explore thoroughly the art of Testino, you must visit his official website  ( and for the aficionados a round trip to Peru to visit the Mario Testino museum which was originally a 19th century house that the artist acquired and transformed into a museum. The Mate Foundation is located in Lima and aims to promote international art.

Mario Testino's portrait
Mario Testino’s portrait

It goes without saying that Mario Testino is a true legend of the world of fashion photography.

Let us know about your favorite piece of art made by Mario Testino!

Thierry A.

Published by daphneelucenet

IT-engineer - Financial background with a free mind doing my best to understand our fast-pace changing world and just hoping for the best!

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