MARIO AT THE MUSEUM: Remember the days when fashion photographers were relatively unknown to everyone but the cognoscenti? Well, they’re long gone. Just ask Mario Testino, who drew a crowd to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Wednesday to hear him discuss big subjects like life, art and portraiture. Testino described his role as “part psychologist and part magician” (isn’t that where Photoshop comes in?). As he spoke onstage, famous images from his portfolio — Princess Diana in black-and-white with gently disheveled hair or Kate Moss’ face blotched with self-applied bright makeup — scrolled behind him. Before photographing any famous face, he reviews other portraits to see “what they can give me that they haven’t given anyone else.”
Testino recalled his early years, leaving native Lima, Peru, and trying first San Diego (which he didn’t like) and then London, where, in order to extend his British visa, he followed a friend into photography school, waited tables on the side and served as Johnny Rosza’s assistant. He eventually became friendly with an editor at British Vogue, where he got his first major credit.
This story first appeared in the May 24, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not that everyone is a fan, though. “I’ve been criticized for pretty, smiley photographs, but at least someone is happy,” Testino said. “In my mind, I am always giving the image to the sitter.”
He also recalled meeting fellow South American Gisele Bündchen at the end of the grunge-waif era and trying to convince editors to use her. “It was, ‘Uh, no, the nose, the waist, the breasts.’ They saw problems everywhere,” he said. “A year later, everyone wanted her.” But his enduring connection has been to Moss, whom he met when she was 14 and crying backstage over getting only one runway look in a John Galliano show. Moss will appear in Testino’s new book, representing more than 100 separate sittings of the British model, to be released this summer by Taschen. When will he stop? With his megafees, large number of assistants and a client list that includes Lancôme, Burberry, the British Royal Family — not to mention a mania for pricy contemporary art — the answer is no time soon. “I can’t just have one fabulous thing, I need a hundred,” he joked. “That’s why I am always working.” — Kate Bowers
FASHIONABLY FREE: Now that he’s completed his sentence for Federal weapons charges earlier this year, hip-hop star T.I. is ready to step back into the fashion spotlight. He will star in a new campaign for his Akoo young men’s brand this fall, with ads set to break in the June-July issue of Complex and outdoors in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago. The images were shot by photographer Rony Shram at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan last month. “We wanted to re-create the scenes and scenarios that a young, distinguished man of leisure would find himself in,” said T.I., or Clifford Harris Jr., of the ads. “I’m not going to say that these clothes will get you two or three women in a hotel room, but men have been known to wear these clothes in that situation.” Also in some of the ads is up-and-coming hip-hop star Donnis. In August, T.I. will release his new album, “King Uncaged,” along with the bank heist movie “Takers,” in which he appears alongside Hayden Christenson, Zoe Saldana and Idris Elba. T.I. is an executive producer of the film. — David Lipke