News Column

Change of focus Testino takes a look at Peru

April 30, 2014

Dan Collyns Lima

He has taken celebrated photographs of the most beautiful women in the world and his name is synonymous with the glamorous jet-set world of the fashion shoot. Now Mario Testino has his lens focused on ambitions closer to home.

He was born and grew up in the Peruvian capital, Lima, leaving in 1977, aged 22, to pursue his dreams in London. But he feels his hometown drawing him back.

"It's going through an explosion of everything because everything it lacked when I left, now the other places lack and it's here," he said at the private launch of his exhibition at the art deco house he converted into a gallery in Lima's seaside district of Barranco.

The gallery is part of his arts foundation, the Asociacion Mario Testino (MATE) which he launched in Lima in 2012. Through it he wants to create a platform to raise the profile of Peruvian artists and give them the opportunity to study in the UK. This year, he says, it will bring foreign artists to Peru to "expose Peruvians to things they wouldn't normally see".

Testino, 59, below right, who was awarded an honorary OBE last year, has become something of a cultural ambassador between the UK and Peru, he said. "One never really imagines the links between England and Peru as such but I think we have a big link," he said.

Among the photos in his exhibition are the famous black-and-white portraits of Diana, Princess of Wales, which "catapulted me into this world", he said. This is the first time they have been shown in Peru. "Not only did she introduce me to the world, as such, but I got to know a person who was magical and gave me inspiration to do things today that I thought I would never do."

Testino has only good words to say about all his leading ladies, but it is his group photographs that he feels best reflect his talent. "Our identity as Latin Americans is that we always belong to a group of friends and family. We're always surrounded by people."

The photographer, recently appointed president of the board of the World Monuments Fund Peru, has taken to photographing traditional festivals in the Andes. "Not many people know the wealth of our costumes," he said. "All the different styles we have all around our mountains . . . even one province, Cusco, has such variety in the way they dress."

But his globetrotting lifestyle appears far from over. He said: "I think life has it all planned for you, and life has been generous to me."

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Source: Guardian (UK)