Best known for his creative ability to capture sensuality and humanity in pictures, Mario Testino is widely considered one of today’s greatest fashion photographers.
Mario Testino is a photographer and videographer whose work has accrued international regard and has been published in some of the leading fashion magazines including Vogue, V Magazine and Vanity Fair. And yet, despite his degree of influence in the world of fashion photography, not everyone is aware of Testino’s Peruvian origins.
Testino was born into a traditional Catholic family in Lima in 1954. While he originally studied Economics in his youth, in 1976 he moved to London where he first tried his hand at photography. Inspired by the works of Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton, and the Mitford sisters, the first professional project he worked on was a commission for British Vogue. Since that time, Testino has photographed a great number of well-known personalities including much of the British Royal Family, Beyoncé, George Clooney and supermodels such as Kate Moss and Gisele.
As he grew in success and fame, Testino never forgot his roots and in the early nineties he drew much of his inspiration from his childhood and experience growing up in Peru. Since that time, Testino has worked on many projects centered in his home country. One project titled ‘Peru’ is a collection of photographs that capture the everyday lives of typical Peruvians and the incredible landscapes that can be found throughout the country.
However, Testino’s most impressive Peru-based collection is called ‘Alta Moda,’ which centers on an archive of costumes from Filigranas Peruanas, a non-profit institution of Peruvian art and folklore in Cusco. While completing this project Testino made frequent visits to Cusco between the years 2007 and 2012. The photographs in ‘Alta Moda’ reflect the deep dance and textile history that is preserved in the vibrant colors and textured fabrics of traditional Peruvian dress. “So much Peruvian history lives on in these clothes,” said Testino with respect to his work. “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. Something we can easily take for granted.”
‘Alta Moda’ is currently on exhibition at MATE – Museo Mario Testino located in the Barranco district in Lima. MATE is a not-for-profit museum that was founded by Testino in 2012 as a means of contributing to Peru and preserving its important culture and past. While Testino’s permanent displays of ‘Alta Moda’ and Princess Diana of Wales are typically considered the most impressive collections there, the museum works to bring attention to other up-and-coming Peruvian artists by displaying their works and offering a great number of residencies and events. While many of the most popular museums in Lima celebrate Peru’s rich heritage through remarkable displays of artifacts and historical works, MATE offers a refreshing and contemporary perspective on Peruvian culture, making it a must-see for anyone traveling to Lima.