(Mario Testino on the Red Carpet at the MFA; Courtesy of The MFA)
As someone who has been reading Vogue every month for more than half of my life, Mario Testino is a legendary figure in my mind. The fact that his first US exhibit is now at the MFA in Boston is pretty much mind-blowing to me. The fact that I got to view it before the general public and then actually meet him, well, I’m still in shock. I also have a new fashion crush because he was so charming!
He was also completely charming towards us bloggers and made sure to take pictures with each of us afterwards. He asked a lot of questions about fashion blogging and its community in Boston. He even joked, “The bloggers are front row? It took me 10 years to get front row, no?”
Mario promised to take a minute to check out each of our blogs so if you’re reading Mr. Testino, Hi!
So, why did he call the exhibit “In Your Face”?
Because, to him, it meant “something plainly in front of you. The biggest, clearest way of expression. This is really who I am. This is really what I believe in. An acute example of what I cherish..” here in front of you. He also spoke a lot about the tension that exists between art and commercial photography which, as a Vogue photographer, is something that is often brought to his attention. He doesn’t worry about it though, saying, “I don’t think I label. I just do what I do and it falls where it falls.”
I’m going to share with you some of the stories he told that I think you’ll find the most interesting.
A turning point in Testino’s career was when Mario shot Madonna for her first Versace campaign back in 1995. Avedon was scheduled to do the shoot but Madonna wanted Mario and Gianni agreed. Following that, he snapped Madonna with her new-born, Lourdes, for Vanity Fair.
“I was very lucky to photograph her at an important time in her life. (And) She kept bringing me back. She kept me alive!”
On Kate Moss:
Mario Testino has known Kate since the very beginning of her career and they are now close friends. He recounted a story about Kate’s first runway show at age 15.
“She was crying backstage. (They hadn’t given her enough looks.) I said, “Look, don’t worry. In life there is cologne and perfume. You are a perfume. You will last forever.” I’ve stuck through thick and thin (with her.) She makes life more fun!”
On Anna Wintour:
Anna convinced Mario to leave Harper’s Bazaar (at the time the most influential fashion magazine) for Vogue. He was unsure but followed her.
“I’m a Vogue photographer. Maybe I always was. It was the best thing that has happened (to me.)”
On her infamy, “She has a quality that many don’t see. She’s very loyal. She’s very straightforward. I listen to her and follow her. I show her (this) exhibition. She has a lot to say. And she was so right. I took 3 pieces out!”
“I met her when she was 17 at a casting in New York. I thought someone had turned on the light when she walked in. I kept telling people, “I have this girl!” They weren’t so sure. Then, a year later, all the people who weren’t so sure had to have her! She has no problems, skin, hands…she’s been gifted. And on top of it she’s kind and energetic.” She’s a hard worker. She (looks at a picture) says, “I can do it better!” She bring energy. You can either be blank or you can be inquisitive and bring a whole new light. She brings a light.”
Princess Diana & Catherine Middleton:
Mario famously photographed Diana for her final sitting before her death.
“She was entering a new phase. They had taken her HRH (title) and I think she felt a new freedom. She was one of the magical moments in my life. She was a true princess. She had kindness. Why life wanted me to photograph her when I did? (But) Kate she has been prepared. She’s a real icon already.”
Advice on a Successful Career in Fashion:
“You gotta be you! That is a hard thing. We are all in awe of other people. It is hard to overcome. Otherwise…unfortunately, its work. You have to work! You can see the effort and you see it when you don’t (put the effort in.)”
See Mario Testino’s In Your Face exhibit now through February 3rd 2013 at The Museum of Fine Arts. His collection of Royal Portraits (including Will & Kate’s engagement photos) are on display now through June 16th 2013.
Thank you to Mario Testino & The MFA team!