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An age of celebrity needs a celebrity photographer and MARIO TESTINO is that man. So what’s his secret? Words: Mark Robertson
ou know you‘ve arriy'ed when you‘ye heen snapped by
Mario 'l'estino. It has heen said that ‘a generation of
models can testify that a 'lestino coyer is a passport (or at least a six—month visa) to the height of fashion'. Such influence cannot he underestimated.
He may still he only Peru's second most fainous export after l’addington Bear hut his photographic skills and style are nothing short of an international phenomenon.
Ila/I. I-ium' slim/wily. Kylie. supermodels. ()K.’. Pop Idol. liigm'. I'm u ('t'lt'lirily; (it'l Hlt' our oil/ere: we live in an age ohsessed with the attaintnent and deyelopment of celehrity status. .-\nd we need people around to capture this oyerflowing fountain of celehrity. hence the rise and rise of the celehrity photographer.
A few weeks hack. (‘hannel 4 screened a documentary focusing not on the glamouroLIs. internationally renowned supermodel. the much loyed northern 'l‘\' comic or the million selling pop icon all preening in front of the lens. hut the squat. stuhhly man with the catnera. Rankin took centre stage while Jodie. Johnny and Ronan looked on. Riyal channel. liiye. screened a day in the life with l)a\'id LaChapelle. the widely and wildly celehrated New York snapper. The programme poured oyer his working practices and left the likes of Alicia Keys and Madonna as mere asides in the story.
()hyiously the photographer’s standing should not he oyerstated. Without a suhject. a celehrity photographer is simply a photographer — no less dignified or reputahle. hut no glatnourous twist and recognition. quually lit for the 'l‘\' fly- on—the-wall treatment is Mario ’I‘estino ~ he. l.a('hapelle and Rankin make tip the triumyirate of top class shutterhugs who define contemporary celehrity photography.
Today. the photographers position has been elevated and
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the power he wields is considerahle. Alexandra Shulman. former editor of the British edition of View elucidates on this in the hook accompanying the forthcoming .lluriu 'Ii'sn'nu:
l’urlruftx exhibition: "l'o underestimate the possihilities of
reconstruction afforded hy the team of professional make-up artists. hairdressers and fashion stylists. the skills of the retoucher and the alchemy of lighting. is to he ignorant of a transforming power as technically and aesthetically exacting as anything that is achieyed in a painter’s stttdio.‘
What the fusion of celehrity photographer and celehrity hrings is something greater than the sum of their parts. Rohhie Williams in the huff is one thing. hut Rohhie Williams in the huff snapped hy Mario 'l‘estino'.’ .\'ow that‘s another.
'l'cstino can he likened to movie directors such as Steyen Spielherg or James ('ameron. who are higger than the stars they capture on lilm.
But what's the secret‘.’ What is it that 'l‘estino. I.a('hapel|c or Rankin do that sets them apart from the millions of photographers out there'.’ They ohyiotisly come to us descended from a rich yein of creatiye talent. taking inlluencc and reference from legendary photojournalists such as liye .-\rnold and the Magnum photographers. through 5le fashionista lrying l’enn to Day id Bailey. llerh Ritts and Annie l.eihoyit/. who all helped refine the notion of celehrity photography with their shoots for limiry l’uir. Rolling 5mm and others in the (itls. 70s and ﬁlls.
Rising to real prominence in the 7()s and 80s. Ilclmut Newton turned tip the sex while embracing celehrity as he fetishised the female form. Steyen .\leisel followed suit in principle at least - as he honed his art and rose to notoriety. taking the two to an illogical conclusion when shooting Madonna‘s photohook. Set. D
Magazine covers, left to right, by Mario Testino, Rankin, Testino and David LaChapelle. Main picture: Testino’s Madonna for Atelier Versace 1995 Milan
'IT IS AS EXACT ING AS ANYTHING ACHIEVED IN A PAINTER'S STUDIO'