Photographer Mario Testino Gets ’In Your Face’ with Celebs, Royalty, in First American Exhibit
Among the 122 larger-than-life sized images on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art’s "In Your Face" exhibit, opening Oct. 21 and running through Feb. 23, is a black and white shot that appears to be a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes bustle at a fashion shoot. Kate Moss checks herself out in the rear view mirror of the SUV she’s leaning against; in the background a male model, his back turned to the camera, is just pulling up a pair of boxer shorts. This shot was taken in 1996, and appeared in Harpers Bazaar.
Both the subject and the outlet for this portrait are familiar for the artist, Mario Testino, who is regarded as one of the world’s finest photographers.
Testino, a native of Lima, Peru, made his way to London in 1976, where he attended photography school. (He still resides in London, though he doesn’t spend much time there; asked where his home base is, Testino says, "British Airways." It’s more than a little true, given his constant travel.)
Over the course of a career that spans three decades, Testino has become a premiere lens man for international magazines (Vogue, Vanity Fair, V) as well as ad campaigns, capturing meticulously staged portraits and candid snaps alike of the famous and beautiful the world over.
"I have always been obsessed with people who look like they are having more fun than me," Testino said in a prepared Q&A that the museum distributed to the press. "They are my muses."
That comes through in his work. Elegance, sex, class -- it’s all there, but it’s all served up with an irresistible sense of playfulness.
Welcome to the MFA
A glance around the MFA’s Ann and Graham Gund Gallery brings a cavalcade of vibrant, indelible images to the eye. A mascara-laden Josh Hartnett gazes into the lens as though it were a looking glass, applying a coat of lurid red lipstick -- a little sloppily, as it happens. The luscious scarlet pops against his pale skin, dark hair, and hazel eyes.
Madonna poses in a dark fur and hat, looking as formal and classically correct as a portrait done by a master painter; like just such a portrait, this image has a timeless and transcendent quality. Yes, it’s Madonna, but this pose, this vision, would still be gorgeous were anyone else the subject.
Meghan Douglas, white feathers stuck dramatically in her flame-colored hair, gnaws a fingertip waifishly as she glances camera-ward; she’s intensely appealing and yet she exudes an aura of innocence. Reese Witherspoon lurks in a roseate half-light, almost lost in the glowing, flowing, scarlet dress in which she is ensconced.
These dreams of glamour seem imported from some ethereal realm of perfect moments, a realm that only a chosen few can dip into, for mere fractions of a second, to bring back these vivid glimpses.