The Photographs of Mario Testino

Thus far none of my visual diary entries have covered the work of a fashion photographer. Therefore, I decided to discuss the positive and negative attributes of a single fashion photographer’s pictures for this journal entry. I picked Mario Testino after seeing him in the documentary “The September Issue,” which is about the production of Vogue’s most popular issue. Testino is a Peruvian photographer who currently lives in London. He is known for photographing high fashion shoots for numerous magazines and campaigns by fashion houses like Burberry and Michael Kors. Below are his images with my commentary:




1. This is an ad that Testino shot for Versace. I was immediately attracted to the color in this photograph. The saturation of the blue dress and soles of the blue shoes are both lovely. It’s very rich. The lighting is also important here because it enriches the tone of her tan, which also sets off the blue. In my opinion, this is a very successful photograph for Testino. Essentially he is hired to sell Versace’s clothes and he does a good job of presenting the clothes in an appealing way. The focus is on the dress and the model. She is beautiful and is posed in an intriguing manner but that is secondary to the clothes.


2. Testino shot this ad for the famous raincoat, clothing and accessories company Burberry. For the most part Burberry’s clothes only come in three colors; beige, black and white, so it’s appropriate that this photograph is in black and white. The black and white actually adds visual weight to this photograph because the background sinks away due to its dark color. The model in the light colored dress in the foreground really stands out. The rule of thirds is also present and it intersects right at the point where these two models are locking arms underneath the umbrella. Finally, it was an interesting stylistic choice by Testino to photograph in the rain and allow the raindrops to appear on film. I like this choice though; it adds a touch of realism to this photograph and shows off the functionality of Burberry’s wet weather clothing.


3. This Dolce & Gabbana ad works because Testino and his production designer fully committed to the theme of the 1970s. This ad is probably a few years old and represents a time period when 1970s clothes were back in style. I like that Testino stuck with the visuals of that time period including the warm tones, faded look of the film and the lens flares. Once again Testino manages to create an environment that is optimal for selling clothes. I like the scene that he has set here, the wooded locale, the nice weather, the fun friends and the delicious looking picnic. This ad is successful in my eyes because it gives me positive feelings about Dolce & Gabanna and their clothes.


4. This vertical rainbow colored ad is one of my favorites. Testino’s work tends to communicate a great sense of fun and whimsy and those two characteristics are especially apparent in this photograph. If this shot were in black and white, I would probably mistake it for being from the 1930s but Testino put it in full color, which makes it stand out. Shades of pastels are one my favorite ways to present color and I love the unique suit that the model is wearing here. The look on the model’s face is priceless too. It’s about a ½ second away from being a smirk. It was smart of the make-up artist to keep the model’s hair, face and finger nails colorless so that the suit, jaunty hat and background make this photograph.


5. The theme of this photograph is immediately apparent. The model in her hounds tooth suit and red boots is supposed to be a non-conformist. The men with their identical suits, hats and newspapers are a great visual representation of the Gestalt grouping law of similarity. The similar way in which these male models are dressed and are standing with their backs to the camera helps me see them as a pattern. The red boots add a nice pop of color to this picture as well. I don’t immediately know what this ad is selling but if it is the boots then Testino definitely did a good job of focusing on their unique color and style.


6. I like that Testino used a novel and visually stimulating angle on this photo. It’s a long shot and he didn’t go the usual route of shooting the model head on. He actually used the statue’s legs to block the first two-thirds of this photo, which perfectly frames the model in the final one-third of the image. The Gestalt law of closure is visible here because my eyes visualized the upper torso and head of the statue closest to the camera even though these parts weren’t visible. I think this is based on seeing the full statues in the background and imagining the half-seen statue as having a similar shape and style. The natural light filtering into this picture is really beautiful. It gives it an ethereal feeling. Overall, I like the scale of this photograph it looks like the much smaller model is lost in a world of large frozen giants.


7. I like the subtle use of shadow in this picture. Contrast is visible in the creases of the model’s dress, the hat on the model’s face and the cigar on the model’s shoulder. It’s a clue that very strong lighting was used for this shoot. It’s possible that Testino was attempting to make this picture look like it was taken at noon, outside in very direct sunlight. The close crop on this photograph, which cuts off part of the hat and part of the dress, leads me to believe that they are selling accessories here including her bracelet, alligator choker and earrings. Her head is even slightly turned to reveal the earring, which in turn obstructs one of her eyes.



8. This is an example of one of those fashion shoots that makes the industry look crazy because no one in their right mind would pay a large sum of money to wear this out on the street. These clothes are impractical and over the top. I actually think that Testino is in on the joke here. He has posed the model in such a way that she looks as uncomfortable as the clothes. Plus, she is looking at the camera confused, like she can’t understand why she has to hold this plaid bag above her head. Looking through these photos has shown me that Testino is adept at setting the correct mood and tone in his photographs. His photographs are usually more than just a standard fashion shot, there is usually at least one thing happening in them that makes me take a second look and this is important when people are paying him lots of money to create visually stimulating ads that sell expensive clothing.

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