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A Critical Review of Testino as a Creative Identity

Mario Testino is recognized as one of the most successful and talented fashion photographers of our time. As stated previously by Liz and Tara its Testino’s ability to develop trust with the subject and also his humility that make his photos so iconic.

However like any creative individual who publishes their work to be seen by a wider audience they must expect some level of scrutiny and critiscm.

A circumstance of this can be seen in The International Review of Graphic Design. A critic from this source, Rick Poyner was most unimpressed with Testino’s exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Poyner can be quoted to say that Testino is “A celebrity fanatic that simply marvels the glitz and glamour” (Poyner, 2002)

One can hardly argue with this perception of Testino as he only socialises among the rich and famous. Kate Moss being one of his closest friends.  In addition, he is known to say that he does not enjoy the company of ugly women.

Poyner is seen to clearly have an issue with the superficiality of Testino’s work in this review and to also criticize the level of ‘airbrushing’ that is used on the photos.

My perspective of this critical review was that Poyner wanted to highlight the lack of reality in the photos. They were all so celebrity and fanatical based. The ‘airbrushing’ of photos seems to be associated primarily to celebrities. These ‘tricks’ used by photographers manipulates the photos to present a distorted view of reality.

Testino and other celebrity photographers alike are criticized for not presenting reality. There is a general disgruntled attitude from artistic peers and the general public alike for this diversion from truthful photography.

In the article “The Problem With Photography” the author, Jed Perl, stated that in modern photography ‘the reproduction of reality seems to be one more job for the computer”(Perl, 1998).

Perl was annoyed with the loss of what he described as ‘talent and creativity’ in modern photography. The shift to digital technology has made the photographer lazy in Perl’s mind (Perl, 1998).  The digitalizing of photos is a move away from traditional photography. However can this simply be a new form of artistic ability? There is definitely a high level of computer skill needed to successfully airbrush photographs.

WATCH FROM 5:17 onwards

Testino does not deny using airbrushing to modify his shots, but as you can see in this small exert of film, he claims to only enhance his photos. Testino also avoids any claims of being an artist. Testino has said directly “I don’t think of myself as an artist, I am a commercial photographer”, (Irving, 2002) And for Testino in being commercial he has to provide for the demand. Top fashion magazines and other similar texts only want airbrushed photos. I believe it only proves Testino’s talent that he is able to utilise his creativity under these commercial restraints.

In looking at the creative individual, Testino claims that photography is his form of creative expression. In looking at this weeks reading about The Creative Personality I believe Testino relates closely to the paradoxical trait of having a combination of playfulness and discipline. As Adam has said Testino grew up in a very fun partying atmosphere and claims to be an obsessor of youth.  In looking at Testino’s photography book Alive, the photos show a clear sense of fun and youth. I would like to show a few photos from this book.





Testino also shows discipline through his hardworking nature and constant determination to be the best in his field. Testino grew up with a strong catholic influence that has had a huge impact on his working life. Testino’s belief is that a sense of faith and hard work will result in blessings (Testino, 1998).

I believe what makes Testino’s work so socially accepted is the beauty and simple nature of his work. He does not claim to be an artist, but his photos are undeniably a form of art. What makes Testino’s work truly great is his humility and non-egotistical approach. He does not take himself too seriously. A youthful and carefree vibe can be felt from many of his photos but there needn’t be any further analysis on their message. Testino does not try conveying some deeper meaning or trying present some sort of social commentary with his work. It is refreshingly simple.

Alexandra Schulman the editor of British Vogue commented on Mario Testino’s work saying “Mario doesn’t expose vulnerability, worry, neurosis or conflict because he edits the world he wants to present those aspects aren’t in it” (Schulman, 2002).

Testino photography is about beauty fun and youth. His unique ability is to get the individuals he photographs to present themselves in an entirely new and raw light. Mario Testino is a clear example of a creative personality and is a key talent of our time.

Reference List

Irving, M. (2002). The shiny happy people: visual arts Mario Testino [London edition]. Financial Times, 14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/249353132?accountid=10675

Perl, J. (1998). The trouble with photography. The New Republic, 219(16), 31-38. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212818021?accountid=10675

Poyner, R. (2002). The nose against the celebrity glass. The International Review of Graphic Design, 43(Spring). Retrieved from http://www.eyemagazine.com/review.php?id=62&rid=89

Shulman, A. (2002). Testino: Portraits. Studio International. Retrieved from http://www.studio-international.co.uk/photo/testino.asp

Testino, M. (1998). Books any objections?. Mario Testino. Retrieved from http://www.mariotestino.com/page/134

Testino, M. (2001). Alive . Boston: Little, Brown and Company


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