Mario Testino Talks About Self Image, Retouching, and Dove

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Mario Testino Talks About Self Image, Retouching, and Dove


Mario Testino stands tall among famed fashion and portrait photographers. His work has filled the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and gone far beyond in solo exhibitions. Testino’s portraits earned him the nickname, “the John Singer Sargent of our times,” compliments of the National Portrait Gallery in London curator Terence Pepper. Without question, his work has added a vibrant new aspect to how fashion and beauty are viewed.

Testino spoke with Vogue regarding self-image, beauty and retouching, as well as his recent work with Dove on the brand’s #RealBeauty campaign.

As far as retouching goes, Testino doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it, though he tries not to let it be reflected too greatly in his own work. “To me, something without flaws isn’t exciting. Perfection I find quite boring because it’s not real,” the photographer told Vogue. “It doesn’t have a consequence at the end of the day. At least in photography, I try to perfect something and then destroy it so that it becomes alive.” Testino isn’t the only person to feel this way, either. Plenty of artists and photographers embrace their subjects’ flaws. Models such as Tara Lynn flaunt theirs, and brands including Aerie have proven that not photoshopping their models is more desireable to their audience.

Testino doesn’t claim to abstain completely from retouching – he simply explains a preference in using these tools to correct poor lighting on his part rather than more extreme aspects of photographs, or distorting his vision of reality. He does point out that this is his own vision, not something necessarily shared across the industry or many others. “But a friend of mine back then said something that really stuck in my head: The new generation has access to all these tools where you can retouch everything yourself on your phone. Reality isn’t any longer just what we see or what we know that actually exists; reality becomes everything you can have through your Photoshop. That’s a point of view, and why shouldn’t somebody else have that point of view if that’s what they want?”

The Dove brand is continuing its efforts to provide a more real-to-life point of view, using a wide variety of models in the #RealBeauty campaign. Testino remarked to the magazine how much he appreciates the brand using its vast audience reach to provide imagery that moves beyond selling product and invites empowerment and inclusion. “Especially in the times that we are living now, where exclusion is becoming a worry. This company is working on inclusion,” Testino explained to Vogue. “When you retouch skin to perfection, you are excluding a lot of people who could never get to that [ideal]. By allowing all those things to exist, you’re opening that door to make a lot of people believe they are beautiful as well. And the sad thing is that when you don’t consider yourself beautiful, it reflects in all your actions and all your attitudes: in your security to your work, your security toward your partner, your security to your children.”

32 women and girls from over 15 countries around the world were assembled for Dove’s new campaign, women of numerous nationalities, ages, shapes and backgrounds. “Since 1957, Dove has always cared for women with its products and celebrated their beauty,” reads the campaign’s webpage. “Now, 60 years later, we are taking another step forward in our mission to help women discover the power of their real beauty and to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.”

To read more of Mario Testino’s interview, click here.


Mario Testino Talks About Self Image, Retouching, and Dove


Written by Lillie Peterson

Lillie is a graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor's in Classics and a lifelong fascination for fashion and art. A freelance writer and artist, her hobbies include photography, design, drawing and blogging.

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