PaperCity Magazine

September 2014 - Houston

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MARIO The EYE TESTINO ALTA BEHIND MODA H e's Peruvian, he resides in London, he's never visited Texas, and he's coming to Dallas. Internationally famed fashion photographer Mario Testino is respected by every glossy magazine from Vogue to Vanity Fair; sought after by designers such as Burberry, Roberto Cavalli and Versace; beloved by models Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen and Miranda Kerr; and admired by celebrities and royals alike. This month, in the heart of the Dallas Design District, Testino showcases his exhibition "Alta Moda by Mario Testino" at the Dallas Contemporary. Testino will transform the latter's white walls into a dramatic backdrop of black, pink and red to exhibit more than 30 oversized portraits of traditional Peruvian costume, each saturated in color and heritage. Irving, TX, darling and IMG model Erin Wasson attributes the success for her modeling career to Testino, her mentor and friend. Who better, then, to chat up Mr. Testino? Max Trowbridge ERIN WASSON: YOU WERE BORN IN LIMA, AND THE ELDEST OF SIX CHILDREN, YOU WANTED TO BE A PRIEST AS A CHILD. WHY? MARIO TESTINO: I grew up in a very Catholic community. We went to Catholic school and church on Sunday as well as observed religious holidays and saints' days. It was just part of our life, and I guess when you are young, you look around you for inspiration. I was quite inspired by the performance of being in church. It's obviously not theater, but there was something about it — that everyone is looking towards the priest whom conducts the service, that he has to wear special robes, that there are prayers and hymns, beautiful paintings, candlelight … I've often thought, in a dream world, if I were not a photographer, I would be a singer, so maybe performance is what it's all about. In a way, I have to perform as a photographer. I have to project myself into the picture through my connection with the sitter. Also, I felt good helping out. I was an acolyte/ altar boy helping the priest. When we were 15, we volunteered in one of the shantytowns by teaching M A R I O T E S T I N O I N T E R V I E W E D B Y E R I N W A S S O N P R O D U C E D B Y M A X T R O W B R I D G E the children, and, for me, it felt so natural. I liked doing it. The priests brought this reality to me and gave me that opportunity, and it's something I have carried with me through life. EW: YOU MOVED TO LONDON TO STUDY PHOTOS. WHY, WHEN, WHERE AND WHAT DID YOU EXPERIENCE DURING THIS TIME? MT: I moved to London in the late 1970s, but it was a bit later that I discovered photography. I tried many things. There was a time when I was a waiter trying to survive, but I was no good, as I would clear a table one plate at a time and wash my hands after each plate. I studied photography with a photographer of the theater, so there again performance was what taught me. I made money by taking pictures of new models for their books. London in the late 1970s was so different from what I was used to in Peru. It was the birth of punk and huge social change — so different from Lima. Many of the people I met at that time are still great friends and collaborators now, like Lucinda Chambers of British Vogue, Georgina Godley and Hamish Bowles, to name a few. EW: YOU DYED YOUR HAIR PINK TO GET ATTENTION. HOW DID IT LOOK? MT: I guess it was the time; I tried so many different looks. My hair is quite thick and curly, so when I grew it long it looked a bit like an afro. I would also wear flowery trousers and any number of different things. I just tried different styles, and the times were so experimental. EW: 2002 NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: 10 YEARS' HIGHEST ATTENDANCE OF ANY EXHIBITION. DESCRIBE THIS SHOW AND WHY YOU THINK IT WAS SO SUCCESSFUL. MT: It was a risk for the NPG in London to do this show. I read recently that Charles Saumarez Smith, then the director, said what criticism he got for it. I guess people didn't expect it from an institution such as the NPG. Many of the works were contemporary, from magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair, fashion pictures and celebrity portraits. As well as this, we did the prints very large and made the walls green and blue. It was just so different from what people were used to from the NPG, and in a way, I guess it shocked. But it was the highest attended show for 10 years and still is their highest attended photography exhibition. Maybe it was timing, but maybe people were ready for a change and wanted to see something different. Different is always attractive. The exhibition also covered all the people Qhapâq qolla dance costume, District and province of Paucartambo, Cusco, Peru 2010 © MARIO TESTINO

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