How To View The MFA Mario Testino Exhibit (And What I Learned)

By Brooke Kamenoff
Photos: Stephanie Zhang

Opening on October 21st, “In Your Face” and “British Royal Portraits” by Mario Testino are two exhibits that I would advise you to run over to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) to see. Not only are they photographs by Mario Testino (AKA famed fashion photographer who has shot for Vogue, Vanity Fair, the British royal family, and various celebrities) but they are also so much more than that. Testino’s photos are thought-provoking, gorgeous, and intimate. Even then, those adjectives don’t do it justice. The exhibitions feature a range of images including Sienna Miller for American Vogue in 2007, another of Mariah Carey, Donatella Versace, and Beyoncé from 2002, and portraits of models like Gisele Bündchen and Kate Moss. Now that you’ve hopefully realized this is a must-see, here is my advice for visiting:

1. Go When There Are No Crowds

Although the Gund Gallery is expansive and “In Your Face” features 122 photographs, you’ll want to go on an off day. Many of the images are intimate, in the moment, and they seem to transport you to the time and place in the photo; it is extremely easy to lose that instant if there are gaggles of onlookers discussing each and every piece. Another reason to go when there are very little crowds is so you can stand back and admire each work of art. Several of the photographs are larger than life and while seeing each and every detail is nice, getting a sense of the photo as a whole will definitely alter your perspective.

2. Splurge On A Multimedia Guide

Whenever I go to museums, I tend to skip out on the audio and multimedia guides mainly because I’m a student and, well, paying for the guide isn’t exactly in my budget. For this exhibit, however, I would definitely say to spend the $6 (for nonmembers). There are insightful extras that may not come across through the photos themselves. For example, the handheld guide offers about ten videos discussing travel, nudity in photography, and Kate Moss, among other topics.

3. Be Ready For Anything (Visually, Of Course)

Malcolm Rodgers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA, says, “Mario Testino’s images are full of color, movement, and provocation… In Your Face offers visitors an exhilarating visual experience, bridging the worlds of fashion and art, while British Royal Portraits presents a more personal look at the British royal family.” The two exhibits put forward completely different experiences and while visiting you’ll notice the range of imagery.

4. Keep In Mind That Testino Had A Huge Hand In This Collaboration

Mario Testino had a huge hand in orchestrating the In Your Face and British Royal Portraits (these are his first major US photograph exhibitions after all…). The collaboration all began when Testino spoke at the museum in the 2010 Karsh photography lecture series. Since then, the MFA has worked with him to decide which photos to feature, how large or small each should be, even which color frame to accompany the piece. His arm even extended into the MFA Bookstore and Shop where anyone can purchase select Mario Testino publications and prints. He even made sure to highlight some of his photography inspirations.

5. Have Fun!

Yes, I did decide to be cliche on this last one. As mentioned earlier, many of his pieces seem effortless, informal, and fun. Testino seems to bring a realness to his subjects (especially the British royal family) that the public doesn’t usually get to see. These photos can be a great reminder to not take everything so seriously and sometimes it’s better to be slightly vulnerable, fragile, and, in a word, human.

Don’t forget! The MFA is free for Northeastern students (as long as you bring your Husky ID)! Enjoy!

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