|Born||Mario Eduardo Testino Silva
30 October 1954 (age 62)
|Education||Universidad del PacÃfico
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
University of San Diego
Apprenticeship John Vickers Studio (London)
Apprenticeship Paul Nugent Studio (London)
|Known for||Fashion photographer
Grunge came from a group of English photographers, and they were documenting their own reality… I'm South American – we celebrate life.
England is the country where I learned my profession. They are the ones that trained me, they are the ones that believed in me.
I started being a photographer because I liked fashion. I liked the idea of dressing up and changing my look. I got earrings, dyed my hair. I would dress like a fashion photo.
I am trying to capture the women I photograph at their happiest. That is when they look their most beautiful. But I do understand that you have to make somebody feel completely comfortable in order to bring that out.
My favourite subjects at school were algebra and logic: making a big problem into something small.
My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.
South America was not really that open – you had to fit in, and I didn't fit in. I was different – my tastes, my point of view – were a bit weird, and I found in Britain a sense of calm, that I could just be.
When I had photographed Prince William's mother, I brought along a CD of Dalida, a French singer, that we played on set all day to relax everyone. I decided to do the same thing for Catherine and William. The contrast of the contemporary informal music playing in the beautiful rooms with so much history caused a lot of laughter.
I've been criticised for pretty, smiley photographs, but at least someone is happy! In my mind, I am always giving the image to the sitter.
You have to be you. You can't be anybody else. If you speak loudly, and people tell you to speak quietly, you can do it for a little bit, but loud people are loud, and people who are not, are not.
My pictures are my eyes. I photograph what I see – and what I want to see.
I studied law, economy, international relations, communications, in order to find what I would do. It's the hardest thing, being 17 and trying to find what to do in life. You've explored so little. I'm lucky: My parents let me explore.
Being Peruvian means to come from the farthest place possible to get to Europe. Peru is the land of the Incas. It was the capital of South America; it was where the Spanish founded their empire and took over the Inca Empire and made it into a colony of Spain.
England gave me a chance. It's a very individual country where people have a personal style; they don't all follow a trend. The subtlety and wit of England is incredible, and they are very creative.
I am obsessed by people. Usually I try to get the girl out of the model instead of the model out of the girl.
A lot of fashion photographers will do the same sort of image for many years; it's easier to be successful if you do that.
A fashion photographer is nothing without clothes and hair and makeup. And when I speak to other photographers, a lot of them can't reference a picture by the designer. Me, I say, 'The Balenciaga.' And I go to the shows. I feel like it's my business.
I have no real training in the history of fine art or furniture; my eye just works by proportions. I react intuitively. In London, it's all about color because the weather is so gray, and in that cold light they look beautiful.
There is something about Prince William and Prince Harry that brings real modernity to the British royal family. They are also very open, human, and kind, and this is what I have tried to capture in the pictures I have taken of them as well as in my pictures of Prince William and Catherine.
At one moment, I thought that if I didn't do a picture in a certain way, then it wasn't a 'Mario Testino Picture.' And I've realized that Mario Testino is everything, Mario Testino is whatever he feels like being, because it always ends up looking like me, whatever I do.
Charm, I think, is education, really, no? I was educated to be nice to everybody. If you want to be rude and mean, I'm sure your life isn't that nice.
A photograph can make you feel so many different things. When you look at war photographs of Vietnam, or something similar, it makes you feel anguish and sadness and pain. Then in other moments, when you look at Jackie Kennedy walking down Fifth Avenue, that makes you feel glory and richness.
Oh my God, the graduate shows in London are so important! I still remember going to see John Galliano's graduate collection – that was an event I'll never forget.
When I see Kate Moss out and about, I think she looks more beautiful than when her hairdresser and make-up artist try and make her look like something else. And I remember when Madonna first asked Versace to book me to shoot a campaign with her, she came to see me wearing hardly any make-up, and she looked incredible.
Fine artists reflect, and then they act. Fashion photographers – we act, and then we reflect.
When you're nice, people like you and will want to work with you. But it can mean that they take you for granted.
I am very much about promoting Lima because I think Peru and the mountains and the Incas, everybody is aware of those, but Lima is something that people should discover – especially our food.
In the South America of the forties and fifties, everyone was into beauty and glamour and fashion.
I do a lot of decision making before each shoot. It's a luxury to be able to choose what you do.
A lot of photographers like models to be blank canvases – but bland girls don't influence me. I don't like playing with dolls; I like playing with people.
At the end of the '90s, I was very bored with the usual models, so I discovered a new generation that impressed me with their fresh look. I still keep working with models like Gisele Bundchen and Kate Moss, and I am still looking for new, interesting faces. Life is about discovery, and you should never stop searching.
I said to my mother, 'When you see my name in 'Vogue,' I will have arrived.'
The year has 365 days, and I want each and every one of them to be exciting.
There's a particular style that is very Peru that you don't see anywhere else; it's got so many different imprints. When you mix Incan minimalism with the heavy, ornate Spanish Baroque, it is very interesting.
I've always had an affinity with women. It probably started with my mother when I was young, but it was intensified by my sister, Elena, who is one year older than me. I used to hang out with her all the time, and whenever I travelled, I used to buy her clothes and style her.
I never notice a difference between photographing a man and a woman; for me, it's just somebody.
However spontaneous I hope a photograph will look, I always put a lot of thought into how I can make it happen. The very best pictures are the most relaxed, so a lot of fussing around technically can completely break the spell, and everyone freezes up with nerves.
Even someone as photographed and aware of the camera as members of the royal family needs to feel completely comfortable if they are to look their best.
There are never any absolutes in the fashion business: one day you may like black, and the next day you like colour. I think it's a good lesson that we should never believe too much in any one thing – because the next day it's out, and if we're stuck to it, we're out, too.
Ultimately, I made my range wider because I wanted to suit each publication that I worked for. Talk about reinvention – I'm like the Madonna of photography.
It's a choice – there are two different sorts of photographer: those obsessed with the technicalities and those obsessed by the subject.
I have become aware on my travels that when a country loses the connection between its history and its traditional dress, something truly precious is lost.
To me, the magic of photography, per se, is that you can capture an instant of a second that couldn't exist before and couldn't exist after. It's almost like a cowboy that draws his gun. You draw a second before or after, you miss and you're dead – not them. To me, photography's always like that.
I adore being able to go to the Oscars and know every single person at the party afterwards.
I don't like a tormented photograph. Something attracts you in them, but the attraction isn't because she has a pot on her head or tonnes of make-up and weird clothes and weird everything.
At the beginning of my career, as a boy from Peru in London, suddenly discovering British culture and society, I looked so much at the work of the photographers Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson, which seemed to represent a wonderful vanished grandeur of my new country.
My original idea was to photograph Princess Diana in her tiara. But then I thought, am I interested in seeing another picture of her as a royal person, or would I rather see what she is actually about? And that's why I decided to do her without jewels, without shoes, without trimmings.
I find that my entire life has come to me, and things happened without me planning them. You know, I never asked to photograph Princess Diana, and that made me more famous than I wanted. I never asked to photograph Madonna, and that pushed me to another level. There are things that just take you into the limelight.
I'm really in no one city more than two months during the year. I'm constantly having to readapt my eye to new locations.
Many people when I started didn't believe I was a good fashion photographer, and probably they still think that.
Some of my friends say that I only talk about myself. But it is funny: my house is covered in art but with nothing of my own, and when I'm working, I'm only thinking about what the client wants. So I don't see it that way, but maybe it's true. I mean, they are my friends.