Pic­ture per­fect

Star pho­tog­ra­pher Mario Testino gets real about beauty


Name an ul­tra- fa­mous beau­ti­ful woman—Kate Moss, Bey­oncé, An­gelina Jolie—and Mario Testino has most likely pho­tographed her for a ma­jor magazine or cam­paign. The Lon­don­based Peru­vian reached shoot­ing star sta­tus when he pho­tographed Princess Diana for Van­ity Fair in 1997, cre­at­ing an iconic set of por­traits of the glam­orous royal shortly be­fore her death. But re­cently, in a de­par­ture from his usual diet of movie stars, su­per­mod­els and monar­chy, Testino em­barked on a project to shoot 32 “reg­u­lar” women and girls aged 11 to 71 from around the globe for the lat­est it­er­a­tion of Dove’s Real Beauty cam­paign. We spoke to the leg­end (and el­e­gant gen­tle­man) in New York City last month about how he sees beauty: defin­ing it, pro­ject­ing it and cap­tur­ing it.

What de­fines beauty for you? “I think it has to come from within be­cause it makes us feel that per­son is a beau­ti­ful per­son. We see a lot of girls who are pretty, but I think I would dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween pretty and beau­ti­ful. Maybe pretty comes from phys­i­cal at­tributes, like the per­fect nose, the per­fect al­mond eye, the per­fect lips, whereas beauty comes from the per­son.” Can you see con­fi­dence and in­se­cu­rity when you’re pho­tograph­ing peo­ple? Does it af­fect the photo? “To­tally! In my pic­tures, I try to bring out the pos­i­tiv­ity of the per­son. I was crit­i­cized at first for putting smiles in my pic­tures be­cause it’s not a cool thing in fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy to have some­body smil­ing; it’s im­me­di­ately seen as com­mer­cial and neg­a­tive. I think peo­ple look glo­ri­ous when they’re smil­ing, and I guess I like that pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. Con­fi­dence is prob­a­bly rep­re­sented by a smile, no? When you are feel­ing good, you smile. You breathe it.” The beauty in­dus­try of­ten pro­motes unattain­able ideals, and Dove Real Beauty is con­fronting that. What made you want to get in­volved with it? “I like the idea that they ded­i­cate their com­pany to em­pow­er­ing women, rather than just sell­ing a prod­uct, be­cause they sell the prod­uct any­how.… And it was a dif­fer­ent way of look­ing at my work. I’ve been told from the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer that I’m a por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher—of course, I didn’t want to be a good por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher, I wanted to be a fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher. But I re­al­ized that there is a slight dif­fer­ence be­tween por­trai­ture and fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy: Fash­ion deals with fan­tasy and re­al­ity and por­trai­ture deals with re­al­ity. I like peo­ple, so when I go to photograph them, I want to bring out the per­son. A lot of pho­tog­ra­phers make

Kate Moss look like Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, like

Faye Du­n­away, they turn her into some­thing else, and I’m like ‘ Why, when

we have that Mar­i­lyn of today, or Faye of today?’ I want to see Kate Moss in my pic­tures! I don’t want her play­ing a role— I want her.” Dove re­search found that the older women get, the less they like hav­ing their photo taken. Do you have any ad­vice for look­ing good in photo

graphs? “I find it harder look­ing in the mir­ror than in the pic­tures, per­son­ally. I think a good smile dis­tracts a lot, be­cause you’re hav­ing a good time, and that makes you look great. That’s been my saviour: If you look at pic­tures of me from the last 15 years, I’m smil­ing be­cause it lifts ev­ery­thing up.”

CLAIM TO FAME Sixty years later, Dove is still mak­ing its beauty bar with, fa­mously, “1/4 mos­tur­iz­ing cream.” DOVE GO FRESH BEAUTY BAR IN RE­JU­VE­NATE, $4 (2 x 90G), DRUGSTORES

“Dur­ing the grunge pe­riod, we pho­tographed peo­ple in a very real way, and this re­minded me a lit­tle bit of that in the sense that it wasn’t about glam­our­iz­ing or fak­ing it.” — Mario Testino

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