The Man Behind MFA Exhibit “In Your Face” – Mario Testino

By Brooke Kamenoff
Photos: Stephanie Zhang

While you still have until February 3rd to see the MFA’s In Your Face exhibit by Mario Testino, if you haven’t seen it yet then I can definitely say you’ve been missing out. We’ve already chronicled How To View the MFA Mario Testino Exhibit and now I think it’s time to focus a little more on the man behind it all. Luckily, Haute Fashion had the chance to attend a press conference where Testino spoke with Malcolm Rodgers about everything from Giselle and traveling the world to growing up in Peru. His talk spanned about an hour so I’m going to cut to the chase and share some of my favorite quotes from the event:

On the title of the exhibition: “For me, In Your Face meant something that is blatantly in front of you, that you’re not hiding anything, that you want to really show your way of expressing an idea. It becomes in your face.”

The exhibition store doesn’t only include books: “It’s not only books and photography but it’s also musicians. That’s why I chose all the CDs in the store because music is very important in determining where you’re going and defining who you are. I think if you listen to rock, pop, punk, etc., you know where you’re going. And I guess I’ve always been quite pop.”

The differences between shooting models and celebrities: “It’s very interesting because for many years I have said that celebrities come to do a photograph with a certain idea of themselves and that idea sort of limits what we can do because they have an image. Models come as black canvases so you can actually create and do whatever you want to. But with the years I have come to realize that actually that dividing line has faded.”

In more recent years, Testino has become more comfortable with his work: “Lately I feel a little more comfortable with myself and I start looking at things and thinking ‘well, maybe it’s not the most avant garde or the most this or most that but it’s the most Mario Testino I can do.’ And it’s all about accepting who you are and you’re talents.”

On Anna Wintour: “Oh, she’s been amazing. I go back with her some 25 years I think… She has a quality that not many people see. She is the most loyal person there is; she’s a Scorpio like myself – we are very loyal, Scorpios. I think she’s very straight-forward. People sometimes take that as a confrontation.”

Testino turned to Wintour for suggestions on his MFA exhibit: “Well, you know, I am so close to her that I did show her this exhibition before it was hung because I wanted her to write a text for the book. She did have a lot of things to say that I shouldn’t put in and she was so right.”

On Kate Moss: “I’ve stuck through thick and thin with her, not just for her looks, which are gorgeous – she does make an image a lot better – but she makes life a lot more fun. She has that energy. Everything is more fun when she’s around.”

On Giselle Bundchen: “She’s very lucky. Everything is perfect… She has no problems. Everything is perfect: the skin, the hands, the ankles… and on top of it, she has an energy that’s amazing. She’s fun and kind and sweet…”

He has had the chance to photograph the British Royals: “You know, it’s funny because one doesn’t really get to see the real Prince Charles but he’s the funniest person. They have a very, very strong sense of humor. And the relationship between him and his kids is, you know… They are so close. They are incredible.”

Testino has firmly established himself as a leading fashion photographer: “It’s hard to accept being established because what’s the next step after ‘established’? It’s exit. I’m not leaving if anyone is wondering… I’m staying here for as long as… You know photographers usually die on an assignment?”

With such a fun and light-hearted personality, it’s no wonder the fashion industry has fallen head over heels with Testino. Don’t forget to make your way over to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to see his exhibitions. Entrance is free for Northeastern students by showing their Husky ID!

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