Mario Testino hopes people understand his career is based on “tradition”.
The fashion photographer has a new exhibition on show at Manhattan’s Queen Sofia Spanish Institute called Alta Moda. It is the result of five years’ work taking images of traditional indigenous Peruvian dress – Mario is from Peru.
The photographer understands some will view this is as branching away from the fashion images he is renowned for, but insists that’s not the case. He sees links between such traditional dress and haute couture, as the same care is taken to make both kinds of outfits.
“When you look at my career, in a funny way, I’ve always been doing things related to tradition,” he told style.com. “I do the royal families, I go to Seville for the holy week and the fair of Seville, when all Sevillians go out into the streets dressed in flamenco dresses, on their horses. I’ve done the same thing with the Catholic church. I did a little exhibition called Disciples, and I went to Rome and photographed all the bishops and the cardinals dressed in their costumes. So the whole resurgence of costumes is something that has always fascinated me, and I’m always being drawn back to it.”
Mario is determined to stretch himself, which is why he works on projects like this. He worries that many fashion photographers take the same kind of pictures throughout their careers, a thought which horrifies him. This is one of the reasons why he has always been careful about the kind of jobs he takes.
“In fashion photography, you have two routes to follow. Either you hire a model, and you treat her like a blank canvas and a mannequin – you give her the role of the character you’re creating – and the picture is devoid of the actual model’s personality,” he explained. “The other route is to you get a girl who is a known person – we do it a lot today with actresses or top models – where usually the clothes are chosen around the person, and the personality is what comes out in the picture. I usually tend to do the second. I go for the persona. I’m known more for photographing a top model, or a celebrity, rather than just doing the young model without any personality.”
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