Known as one of the most relevant photographers of the last decades, Mario Testino has established himself over the years as the favorite photographer of both celebrities and royalty, as well as the best fashion magazines worldwide. This year the Peruvian portrait painter, who in September will auction at Sotheby's a selection of works from his collection for the benefit of the Mate Museum in Peru, turns 36 years of career. We talked with him about his vision of beauty, the quality he admires most in women and his new goal of creating images that celebrate a positive attitude.
You have worked with some of the most beautiful women in the world like Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Princess Diana, what is your definition of beauty today?
When I started working in the 1980s, we were still influenced by the 1950s, and so our goal was for hair, makeup, everything to be perfect. Suddenly, in the nineties, the real woman arrived, and fashion magazines began to show the woman she saw on the streets. What do we see today? Models like Christy Turlington and Kate Moss are still around and in their forties; We do not only show sales models. True beauty stands the test of time.
What do you think about retouching the photos and the fact that so many people, especially on social networks, retouch their photos?
It is quite a complicated subject, but I am not in favor of making adjustments to change the appearance of a person, and I am not just talking about digital. Tweaks should be limited to improving what already exists. If you want to make a change in your hair, you cut it, which is a touch-up. If you put on makeup to improve your face, that's retouching. Even going to the dentist can be considered a touch up. If you can make things look like you imagine them in your head, it should be allowed. Sometimes when the wall is not the height I'm looking for, I can extend it digitally. That is enhance.
What attracted you to Dove's #Realbeauty campaign where you photographed real-life women?
I love that Dove is investing not only in promoting its hair and skincare products, but in truly empowering women. In a 60-year history, the brand has been concerned with women and celebrating their real beauty. I think this is very important in these times, when we have to be as inclusive as possible to have a positive impact on the world.
How is photographing a star different from photographing an ordinary person?
I came to the conclusion that it is not much different than working with actors or models, because at some point they were also beginners. It's about getting them to relax and get the best out of them.
What do you think of the fact that the fashion world is beginning to include models and women of different body types, nationalities and ages?
I think the trend for diversity in fashion is growing because people now have access to everything. You can see a person wearing an outfit in the magazine, and then you can see him on the streets doing everyday things while the paparazzi photograph him. We can no longer pretend that things are not as they are. That is why we are all taking advantage of the reality that magazines like Grazia, Hello and Instyle have successfully portrayed. In addition, by displaying different body types, nationalities and ages, fashion becomes more exciting. Beauty is seen in a different way, which makes us grow creatively in different ways. There is no longer a single vision of beauty.
You were born and raised in Lima, Peru. Tell us how that influence emerges in your work
Lima was always a source of inspiration for me and my work. Colors, traditions, architecture, history, etc. All of these things have had an amazing impact on my work. Latino culture is based on warmth towards each other and I think my work reflects that positive attitude.
Your career has certainly been a success, but if you had to change something, or give advice to people who start creative work like yours, what would you say to them?
Be open to criticism from the start. It took me a long time to accept other people's opinions and see them as a benefit. He always considered them a threat, rather than a help to improve himself.
What is the quality in a woman that most attracts you as a photographer?
There are different things that attract me, it depends a lot on each woman. But I think what attracts me the most is a positive attitude and a smile. A smile makes you look good. In the photos where everyone looks great, you will usually find that everyone is smiling.
What were your first references regarding beauty or who influenced the way you see beauty?
Everything inspires me. I can be in a room looking out the window and even watching the clouds move and that can move me. Or I can be in a thrift store looking at things from the past and taking inspiration from those objects. I think inspiration can come from anything. My editors also influence my vision of beauty because they all see beauty in different people, styles and tastes. Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers recently took me to Cornwall for a photo shoot and the topic was Travelers. It's not something I used to focus on, but she made me see it in a completely different way.
How would you define this moment in your career? What things are sparking your interest or inspiring you for your next step?
As a Latin American, I have a very positive vision of life, but it is an aspect that I have not fully exploited yet. When I started taking photos of people smiling, many people looked down on them and considered them very commercial. Now I want to find out how to make that positive attitude and that way of working and photographing credible within the industry.