Mario Testino is one of the most celebrated photographers in the world. Despite starting out from humble beginnings, he achieved remarkable success in the field of fashion photography and he is now the photographer of choice among celebrities, designers, and fashion magazines across the globe. Mario Testino has remained close to his roots in Peru while leading a jet-set lifestyle. Beyond a doubt, he is one of the most famous Peruvians of all time.
Born in 1954 in Lima, the capital of Peru, to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Mario Testino was the oldest of 11 children. While attending an American Catholic School in Lima, Testino became fluent in English. His father, a businessman who dealt in oil, took advantage of Mario's proficiency in the language by bringing his teenage son on business trips to New York to translate for him. New York had a profound effect on the young man as he was growing up, and he would return from these trips having purchased flamboyant clothing inspired by the hippy movement at the time.
These fashions were unknown in Peru at the time and thought odd by the Peruvian people. After having studied at universities in both Peru and America, in 1976 Mario Testino moved to London to take up photography. At the time he had very little money and lived on the floor of an abandoned hospital with other squatters. He got the odd job working as a photographer in theatre but had to combine this with waiting tables in a restaurant to cover the costs of his studies and projects. Any money he earned went back into his photography and he even took out loans just to buy the necessary equipment. To build his portfolio, he often photographed his colleagues from the restaurant in his spare time, many of whom were aspiring models.
Testino decided to live in London permanently in 1982, and his reputation in the fashion industry started to grow. Not afraid of putting himself out in the open, he even dyed his hair bright pink for a time just to make himself more recognizable and help people to remember him.
Mario Testino is renowned for the way he interacts with the subjects of his photography. The Peruvian photographer claims to have never been fazed by working with even the most famous celebrities. He once even resorted to kicking Madonna in order to motivate her and achieve the perfect shot.
Mario Testino’s photography regularly appears in international fashion publications such as Vogue
, Vanity Fair
, and V Magazine
. He is also the photographer behind some of the world’s biggest fashion designers’ most famous campaigns such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss, and many others. Fashion critics also credit him for turning Italian designer Gucci into the brand that it is today with his provocative photography style that they used in their advertising throughout the 1990s.
Testino’s most famous work arguably came when Vanity Fair
commissioned him to photograph Diana Princess of Wales in 1997, just months before her death. The resulting iconic images of Diana portray the Princess as glamorous yet, at the same time, relaxed and approachable. This is something that the world had expected from a member of the British Royal Family.
After this photo shoot, Testino’s career reached a new plateau: ever since, he has been in high demand by countless celebrities who want their photographs taken by him. In 2002, the National Portrait Gallery in London opened a permanent exhibition of Testino’s work entitled Portraits
, which to date remains the gallery’s most successful exhibition ever. In spite of Mario Testino’s huge international success, he has always remained closely connected to Peru’s people. He has become deeply involved in charity projects in his homeland, especially following Peru’s devastating earthquake in 2007.
Due to the fact that he built his photography career abroad, not everyone associates Testino as being one of Peru’s famous people. However, Testino always stresses that he treats everyone with the same courtesy regardless of if they are Hollywood’s biggest star or come from a tiny, rural Peruvian village. This attitude has endeared him to many and helped contribute to the global success of this famous Peruvian photographer.