Mario Testino is a Peruvian fashion photographer. His work has been featured in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. His career highpoint came when he was chosen by Diana, Princess of Wales, for her Vanity Fair photoshoot in 1997. Testino has been regularly employed by the British royal family ever since. Aaron Hicklin of The Observer described him as "the world's most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer". His persistence in shooting Gisele Bündchen is widely credited with elevating her to supermodel status.
Testino was born and grew up in Lima, the eldest son of a businessman. He was one of six children in a middle class family. When he was young he wanted to be a priest. Testino studied economics at Universidad del Pacífico. He is one of six children born to an Italian father and an Irish mother. He attended the Catholic school Santa Maria Marianistas. Testino attended the Universidad del Pacifico, the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and the University of San Diego.
In 1976 he went to London to study photography. Living in an unconverted floor of a hospital, without much money, he funded himself by working as a waiter. He had his hair dyed pink which helped him get noticed as a photographer. In 1982 Testino moved permanently to London.
Testino has shot fashion stories for Vogue, V, Gucci, and Vanity Fair. Celebrity subjects have most famously included Diana, Princess of Wales and her sons. Also more recently Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their engagement in December 2010. Other subjects have included many actresses such as Kim Basinger, Kristen Stewart, Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, models such as Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bündchen, Elizabeth Hurley, and Kate Moss, performers such as Janet Jackson, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga, and public figures like Baroness Thatcher. Living in London, he continues to photograph the British Royal Family as well as shooting campaigns for Burberry, Gucci, Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana, Estée Lauder, Valentino and Versace. He and fashion stylist Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue, are credited for drawing significant attention to the house of Gucci through provocative ad campaigns in the mid-1990s, which, along with Tom Ford's designs, eventually led to the revival of Gucci as a major fashion house. He photographed Rihanna, for V Magazine.
Testino has become one of the world's most well known and celebrated fashion photographers. His work has been featured across the globe in magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and V, and he has crafted and contributed to the imagery of leading fashion houses such as Burberry, Gucci, Versace, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Estee Lauder and Michael Kors, among others. As well as having published seven books of his work and edited one other dedicated to contemporary art and artists from his native Peru, Mario Testino has had many successful exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world.
In 2002, The National Portrait Gallery in London staged the landmark exhibition “Portraits” by Mario Testino that to date remains its second most successful exhibit. For ten years it had the highest attendance of any exhibition ever to be held there. Over the next four years the exhibition went on tour to Milan, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Boston.
Testino has also received royal commissions, including The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Prince Harry, The Duchess of Cambridge, Diana Princess of Wales, The Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Prince Nikolaos of Greece, Prince Willem-Alexander and Maxima of the Netherlands, Prince Haakon Magnus and Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Her Majesty Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan.
In 2011, Testino was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society. These are awarded to distinguished persons having, from their position or attainments, an intimate connection with the science or fine art of photography or the application thereof. He was presented with an honorary OBE on 14 January 2014 by UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.
Testino have also done several covers for music albums, most notable the cover for Dead or Alive's album Youthquake. Testino has been honored for his contributions to many charitable causes and organizations, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Testino has been lauded with a number of awards and recognitions for his achievements and charitable work, including a Doctor Emeritus from the University of the Arts, London, the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award, the Medalha Tiradentes from the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Grand Cross Order of Merit from the city of Lima, Peru. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2011.
In his role as a Save the Children ambassador he helped to raise funds to build the El Salvador Clinic in the Pueblo Nuevo District, Chincha, in his native Peru. The clinic was built for children with Tuberculosis in the area badly affected by the devastating earthquake, which hit the coast of Peru in August 2007. It measured 8 on the Richter scale and the Pueblo Nuevo District was one of the hardest-hit areas in the province, with almost 100,000 houses destroyed and 1,200 schools damaged. The El Salvador clinic was entirely funded from the sale of a single print from Mario Testino’s iconic portraits of Princess Diana. He has also helped to raise money to build a clinic in a Moscow children’s hospital specialising in cancer. It is a cause close to his heart since his brother died from the disease at the age of 10. Testino does not consider himself a saint, though he says, "But doing these charitable things has made me feel that I have got some of the priestly instinct back. I know people who have everything and all they do is complain and bicker. Give off negative energy. When you try and do something positive it helps others but also makes you feel better about yourself." He auctioned one of his prints of Diana for £100,000.
In 2008 Testino donated a sitting at Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball. It went for a staggering £800,000, bought by a Ukrainian businessman. The ball raised funds for AIDS victims, another charity which is close to his heart. In July 2012 he is opening his first not-for-profit association in Barranco, Lima. The association has been named 'MATE' and will act as a dynamic platform for Peruvian art and will hold a permanent exhibition of his works.
Testino openly identifies as pansexual.