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Capturing that perfect moment in time
By Wang Jie

FOR more than 30 years, high-energy Peruvian photographer Mario Testino has been snapping magical pictures of royalty, Hollywood celebrities and supermodels.

Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna are all among Testino's subjects.

Testino's first exhibition in Shanghai, titled "Private View," at the Shanghai Art Museum is underway through December 2.

The show features around 75 photographs by the visual artist and photographer, some of the most remarkable images of our time.

His work has featured across the globe in magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair, and he shoots for Burberry, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and other fashion houses.

But after all these years of success, he never stops shooting, never takes achievements for granted. The 58-year-old still feels pressured, and says he will always be a freelance photographer.

He said he never feels jet-lagged and always appears energetic after a long-distance flight or a night of partying.

"A good photographer needs a strong body and luckily I seem to be born with that. Of course, I also spend a lot of time in the gym," he told Shanghai Daily. Sports and walking is necessary, he said, because he is tempted by all kinds of cuisine around the world, including dumplings and hairy crab in Shanghai.

Born in Lima, Testino never forgets his emotional ties with his Andean country. This year he established a not-for-profit organization, Mate, in Lima to promote the country's culture outside Latin America and to bring more fashion information to Peru. In 2010, he was awarded his country's highest honor, the Grand Cross Order of Merit, presented by the President of Peru.

Coinciding with the current photo exhibition, a special edition book, "Mario Testino: Private View" has been published by Tashen. It will be released in a limited edition of 1,500 numbered and signed copies.

Q: How long have you been taking pictures of the British Royals?

A: My first picture of a member of the Royal Family was in 1981. It wasn't official, but I was in the crowd watching the procession after the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. I captured the Queen Mother in her carriage with Prince Edward and now this work is in the exhibition, alongside more recent portraits.

Q: Do you try to render a message of the Royals? Do you treat them as ordinary people or a noble class?

A: I obviously respect and admire them very much, but like many pictures I take, I am trying to capture a perfect moment that did not exist before and will not exist after. In some cases, I have been inspired by what I have witnessed and that is what I want to convey, for instance, the fun and love between Prince Charles and his sons.

Q: When photographing celebrities, do you communicate with them a lot? Who impressed you most?

A: Communication is key and I have to involve my sitter in the process. Many people I photograph have left impressions for many different reasons. I often go back to Kate Moss because she is not only very beautiful and a great person, but she is also so much fun and we always have a great time.

Q: You're a photographer, a creative entrepreneur and philanthropist. How does a 58-year-old balance all three roles?

A: I am a very instinctive person and I always try to live life to the full, so somehow it works. I work as hard as I can.

Q: You studied economics and law before you discovered photography. What's the attraction?

A: I've always loved fashion and had a keen eye for it, so in a way it seemed like a natural thing to do, photography.

Q: As a renowned photographer, do you feel pressured to always perform?

A: I always say that you're only as good as your last shoot and I'm always striving. You have to work very hard, and I have all my life. I have been a photographer for more than 30 years now and I'm working more than ever.

Q: What's your favorite luxury brand and what's your style?

A: I like to wear different brands for different reasons. Versace shirts, Ferragamo shoes, Burberry suits, Acne jeans. I often go back to the clothing I know suits me well and I feel comfortable in.

Q: What's the purpose of this Shanghai exhibition? What will you bring to visitors?

A: I have been so inspired by China and I find the energy incredible. When I had the opportunity to bring my work to China, a place I never exhibited before, I jumped at the opportunity.

Q: If you relive a period of your life, which would it be?

A: I think the present is pretty incredible.

Q: Do you still take pictures? When do you plan to retire?

A: I am always taking pictures, it's what I love. I have no plans to retire yet.

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