The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is currently holding an exhibit titled Mario Testino: In Your Face. Testino, a photography legend, discovered his passion for documenting people at a very young age. In the span of his iconic career, his work has been featured in Vogue, V, Vanity Fair, Allure, among many other publications. His books include Kate Moss by Mario Testino, Let Me In!, Kids, and Alive. He is considered by many to be among the most influential fashion photographers in the world.
Walking into the exhibit is, as the museum advertises, like walking into the pages of a Vogue catalogue. Immediately visceral, larger-than-life portraits of familiar stars and models glow down upon onlookers.
Set against dark walls, the pieces are softly backlit and elegantly displayed. There are plenty of enormous, brightly colored portraits featuring naked bums, breasts, love scenes, and pouty lips. But these are interspersed with quieter, black-and-white candid shots of celebrities caught in the moment.
In one frame, Emma Watson wears a simple white dress, slicked short hair, and minimal makeup – she cups her hand and peers into the camera, lips slightly upturned. She is thoughtful and stunning, as something of her essence leaps right off the wall.
Testino challenges gender roles in several portraits (we see a man wearing a dress in one, another wearing lipstick in another), but he continues to celebrate traditional, raunchy sex appeal. One shot spotlights a naked couple, entangled in the waters of Rio. In another, femme fatale favorite Angelina Jolie peers over a nude, tattooed shoulder blade. Gisele Bundchen, Jennifer Lopez, and Keira Knightley are just a few of his favorite subjects.
The sets, makeup, and wardrobes (or lack there of in some photos) could not be more beautifully captured. Kate Moss’s mesmerizing face, decorated with luminous pastels, is difficult to give just a passing glance. But for all of the props and glam involved, the magnetism of almost every Testino piece rests in the subject’s eyes, dead center. With images like these, the exhibit is deliciously, unapologetically in your face.