Any initial response or reaction to the speech?
Mario Testino is one of the most famous and prominent photographers of our time, however how many here have actually heard his name before?
A lot of Testino’s work is crude and he enjoys exposing flesh. Does anyone find that slightly offensive?
In looking at the criticism of airbrushing in photographs, do you think it is okay to publish a photo that has been heavily airburshed?
Should the photographer be accountable for his work?
Mario Testino was born on the 30th of October in Lima, Peru to an Irish-Italian mother and a Spanish father. Testino attended an American school in Peru, which meant he had a good English vocabulary. In his teenage years Testino’s father would take him on business trips to New York to take advantage of his good English skills by getting Mario to translate for his father. It was in New York where he came to the realisation that he had a love for fashion. Whenever he came back from New York he would amaze his friends with the latest fashion trends going on in America. It was also because of his father that he became interested in a career in photography for he was always trying to push Mario to choose a career that he would enjoy. Before he decided on photography he attended five different universities including Universidad del Pacifico and Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Peru and the University of San Diego in the USA. In 1976, when he was 22, he moved to London to pursue a career in photography. He started out working as a theatre photography assistant until his boss, John Vickers, died. He then went on to work as a waiter while taking picture of workmates, who happened to be aspiring models in his rented flat, located in an abandoned hospital in Trafalgar Square, selling the projects for £25, which included hair and make-up.
Once he had found his own style he started to make it into big name magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. He only made it to international fame in 1997 when Vanity Fair asked him to shoot Princess Diana only months before her death. After this his career really took off.
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.
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
Not only has Mario Testino showed his talents in celebrity portraits or abstract art but also lending a professional hand to many high fashion brands including Gucci, Versace, Dolce and Gabana, Hugo Boss and Burberry.
Testino has a unique way of channeling the designers style into his own work. For example when Testino worked with Tom ford on his spring summer 1996 ad campaign he found a way to channel Tom Ford’s creative trademarks showcasing Ford’s low cut designs and abstract colouring.
(2010, December 30). Style Icon 2010: Emma Watson [Web log post]
(2011, February 22). Thank you Tom Ford [Web log post]
(2009, May 4). [Ad campaign] Versace spring summer 2009.
(n.d.) Dangerous mountain road ads. Trend hunter retrieved from:
(2009, September 3). Anthologie de la D&G.
Not only does Mario do beauty shots for celebrities, he also creates special projects and publications in which he showcases selected work of other artists, personalities and fashion designers, as well as his own work. One of Mario’s special projects is Visionaire. Visionaire was first created in 1991 and is published 3 times a year with each issue featuring a different theme and format. Mario’s 46th Visionaire edition: UNCENCEORED is a collection of work that explores and represents sex in contemporary art (Visionaire Publishing, 2011). Some of the artists Testino used for this collaboration include: Amie Dicke, Palle Torsson, Slava Mogutin, Angus Fairhurst, and many more.
Mario Testino. 2011. Special Projects. Visionaire Uncensored. Retrieved from
Visionaire World. 2011. 46. UNCENSORED. Retrieved from
In 1995 Madonna saw some of Mario’s pictures in a magazine and insisted he shot her for a Versace add campaign. Even though another photographer was already signed on Versace agreed and this was photo shoot that kick started his career, Mario became the photographer that everyone wanted.
When he first met Madonna she walked into the hotel with no make up on and he insisted on photographing her like that. He wanted to see what the real ‘natural’ Madonna looked like. She was so impressed with the pictures that she booked him for many more shoots (TDM, 2010).
In 1997 Madonna asked Mario to shoot the cover for her album, Ray of Light. After hours of shooting Madonna had had enough and asked to stop, but Mario insisted on continuing because he didn’t believe that they had gotten the picture yet.
“OK, I’m tired. We’re done.” And I said, “But I don’t have the pictures yet.” She said, “You’re working for me and I say we’re done.” I said, “No, we carry on.” The picture she used on the cover came after that. She didn’t intimidate me, you see. I thought, I have to push my luck here, so I started kicking her like dis, with my foot. She was, like, “Hey, what are you doing?” And I was, like, move here, move here,” and suddenly this created an intimacy. When these people come across someone who treats them as an equal, it puts them at their ease.” (Farndale, N. 2009).
Candy Perfume Girl. 2007. MADONNA ~ Mario Testino Shoot ~ 1995 Versace Shoot. Retrieved from
Coco. (n.d). Mario Testino. Retrieved from http://www.tendances-de-mode.com/en/2007/09/21/400-mario-testino
Farndale, N. 2009. Mario Testino: ‘it’s not all glamour’. Retrieved from
Flickr from Yahoo. 2011. Madonna Behind The Scenes Versace Campaign Mario Testino. Retrieved from
Fotolog. 2009. Mario Testino Photoshoot. Retrieved from
Madonna Revelations. (2008). Princess Dianna: “She’s not me – She’s a copy machine. Retrieved from
These pictures were sourced from, http://www.mariotestino.com/page/595