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On Photography

On Photography: Mario Testino, 1954-present

“I started being a photographer because I liked fashion. I liked the idea of dressing up and changing my look. I got earrings, dyed my hair. I would dress like a fashion photo.” -Mario Testino

Mario Testino is one of the most celebrated fashion photographers in the world. He has photographed models who became supermodels. He photographed Princess Diana in 1997, a sitting commissioned by Vanity Fair. That work opened doors for him to make portraits of other royals — the Prince of Wales, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the King and Queen of Jordan and the Queen of the Netherlands.

“I am trying to capture the women I photograph at their happiest. That is when they look their most beautiful. But I do understand that you have to make somebody feel completely comfortable in order to bring that out.”

The magazines

Testino has been described as “the world’s most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer” by The Observer’s Aaron Hicklin. He has contributed to Vogue, Vanity Fair, V Magazine, Allure, VMan, LOVE and GQ. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue (American edition) puts it this way:

“Fashion photography is this uneasy mix of art and commerce and I think nobody understands this better than Mario.”

Mario Testino Portrait by Scott Schuman
Mario Testino
Portrait by Scott Schuman

The portraitist

Terence Pepper, the curator of photography at London’s National Portrait Gallery nicknamed Testino “The John Singer Sargent of our times.” This was on the occasion of Testino exhibition there in 2002 that broke attendance records for all of their previous shows. That record stood for ten years.

The clients

Testino has created work for an array of internationally known companies, among them Burberry, Calvin Klein Roberto Cavelli, Michael Kors, Mercedes Benz, Revlon, Stuart Weitzman, St. John, Shiseido and Macallan.

MATE – Museo Mario Testino

In 2012, he opened MATE – Museo Mario Testino in Lima to contribute to Peru through the cultivation and promotion of culture and heritage.

Art and philanthropy

Testino has always collected art. Works from his personal collection have been on exhibition. Testino remarks,

“Just as photography is a vehicle for me to live a new moment, to go to a new place, meet a new person and so on, art is a process of encounter and discovery. The display of art for me is not just about seeing the work isolated in a white cube. It’s also about engaging with the art – and sometimes the artist – to make something new.”

At the same time, he has collaborated to create it with notables as Keith Haring, Vik Muniz and Julian Schnabel.

He’s helped the Elton John AIDS Foundation, amfAR and CLIC Sargent for children with cancer.


Testino along with photographers Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier and Guess founder Paul Marciano were accused of sexual harassment in January of 2018. More of them appeared in the New York Times on March 3, 2018.

Mario Testino’s official biography.
Read more On Photography posts.

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