There are only a handful of fashion photographers who count as celebrities in their own right. Mario Testino is one of them. His accolades are too numerous to list: Suffice to say, since this son of Lima, Peru launched his career in the early 1990s, he’s shot virtually every supermodel and A-list celeb, his work has been exhibited at major museums and is the subject, so far, of sixteen books. Adding yet another feather to his cap, in 2010 he became the official photographer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—a nod, perhaps, to the sympathetic and justly famous portrait he took of Princess Diana just before she died—and took the snaps at both Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s christenings. Testino is, simply put, one of the premier image-makers of our time.
He’s also been a longtime Valentino collaborator and friend. Mr. Valentino and Mr. Giammetti were quick to recognize Testino’s talent, booking him for campaigns quite early in his career. In 1993, he shot Christy Turlington for Valentino’s Spring/Summer ’94 ready-to-wear campaign, and Nadja Auermann for the Spring/Summer ’94 haute couture. Both campaigns showed off Testino’s knack for the statuesque: Turlington and Auermann look like living sculptures in these photographs. A few years later, however, Testino flipped the script, drawing on a cinematic sensibility in his noir-ish shots of Astrid Munoz and Rhea Durham for the Fall/Winter 1997/1998 haute couture campaign. A few years later, he’d reprise that tone, shooting Mr. Valentino’s “ultimate,” Gisele, in moody black and white in looks from the Fall/Winter 2004/2005 ready-to-wear collection.
Perhaps no Valentino campaign shot by Mario Testino better conjures the photographer’s signature spirit, however, than the one for the Spring/Summer 2004 haute couture. Testino can do painterly, he can do high-toned, he can do steamy. But his most inimitable quality is his sense of fun, amply on display in his shot of a gown-clad Alexandra Richards being hoisted aloft by several muscular young men wearing nothing but skivvies. It’s hard work making a bit of silliness seem like the height of glamour, but time and time again, Testino has made it look easy. That’s why he’s a star.