Mario Testino

Born: Lima, Peru, 1954

Mario Testino was born in Lima in 1954.

He graduated and moved to London in 1976 with the idea of pursuing a career in photography.

His work was first discovered by Madonna who called him directly to offer him a Versace ad campaign that was originally programmed for Richard Avedon. Gianni Versace loved the content of the shoot and decided to publish the pictures under the words “Versace presents: Madonna by Testino”. Vogue Magazine and Vanity Fair published the ads and Testino became the new “it-photographer”.

His work was then featured in magazines across the globe working for Vogue Magazine, Vanity Fair and V Magazine and for many high profile brands including BurberryGucci, Versace, Calvin KleinDolce & GabbanaSalvatore Ferragamo, Estee Lauder, Hugo Boss, Miu Miu, Shiseido and Michael Kors, amongst many others.

“I am obsessed with people and how to make them look their best.”

He is famous for his portraits of a laughing Lady Diana and is? with the help of Tom Ford and Catherine de Roitfeld, the creator of the new “porno chic” movement.

Tired of paying excessive amounts of money for a few poses, he decided to scout new faces and discovered the yet-to-be supermodels Kate MossGisele Bunchden aned Catherine McNeil.

In 2002 The National Portrait Gallery in London staged the exhibition “Portraits by Mario Testino” that to date remains their most successful exhibit. The exhibition toured to Milan, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Mexico and Lima.

Testino has been awarded many prizes for his work amongst which a Doctor Emeritus from the University of the Arts, London, the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award, the Medalha Tiradentes from the city of Rio de Janerio, Brazil and the Order of Merit from the city of Lima, Peru.

He also received many royal commissions including The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Prince Harry, Diana Princess of Wales, The Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Prince Nikolaos of Greece, Prince Willem-Alexander and Maxima of the Netherlands, Prince Haakon Magnus and Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Her Majesty Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan.

Testino has worked for many charitable causes including the “Elton John Aids Foundation”, “Aid for Aids” for which he received the Hero Award in 2008, “Life Ball”, “Sargent Cancer Care”, “the Naked Heart Foundation”, “AmfAR” and “Women to Women”, amongst many others. He was the first man to received the Commitment Award from the latter.

In total he published nine books of his work and had many exhibitions organised all around the world.

In January 2018, The New York Times published an article containing allegations from 13 male assistants and models who had worked with Mario Testino. The accusations included claims of sexual harassment, exploitation, and assault. Models Roman Barrett, Jason Fedele, and Ryan Locke spoke up about their experiences during campaigns in the 1990s. These allegations also extended to photographer Bruce Weber. As a consequence of these claims, Condé Nast announced that they would not commission any new work with Testino and Weber for the foreseeable future. Additional allegations surfaced on March 3, 2018, with four of the five new accusations describing incidents occurring during or after 2010. Testino has denied all of these allegations, but a total of 18 people publicly accused him of sexual assault.

On the philanthropic side, Mario Testino has been recognised for his contributions to numerous non-profit causes and charitable organisations. He received the Grand Cross Order of Merit in Peru, one of the highest honours in his native country, in 2010. In 2014, he became President of the Board of World Monuments Fund Peru. Testino has also played a role as a Save the Children ambassador, raising funds to build the El Salvador Clinic in Peru to help children with tuberculosis in an earthquake-affected area. The clinic’s funding came from the sale of a single print of his portraits of Princess Diana, which was auctioned for £100,000.

He has also supported Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation to build a playground in a Moscow children’s hospital specialising in cancer treatment, a cause that is close to his heart due to his brother’s death from the disease.

In addition, Testino established Museo Mario Testino, a non-profit association in Barranco, Lima, in July 2013. The museum serves as a dynamic platform for Peruvian art, promoting culture and heritage. He restored a 13,000 sq. ft. mansion built in 1898 to house a permanent exhibition of his work and provide a temporary exhibition space for Peruvian and international artists.

Mario Testino Biography

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Written by Marine Lazarus

Marine Lazarus, an Anglo-French photographer who moved to UK 3 years ago to study journalism at Brunel University in London. Marine is responsible for our Photographers Biographies section.

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