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Mario Testino - Biography

"I adore being able to go to the Oscars and know every single person at the party afterwards," Mario Testino once said. And as the photographer who has captured everyone from Prince William and his family to Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, it's a safe bet that rubbing shoulders with the A-listers would present no problems

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The Peru-born snapper has a relaxed, self-assured manner with his stellar subjects and the result is portraits that are prized for their luxurious, natural, often playful quality. "He sees me sexier than other people," Kate Moss once said, adding in an imitation of his accent: "Mario is da best". That was certainly the case when Princess Diana went in front of his lens. Reclining on a sofa, with a slick new hairstyle, sans jewellery and shoes kicked off, she was at her most beautiful and was transformed into an international object of desire. She was thrilled with the pictures. Of the shoot, he said: "She said to me at the time [that] her children had said to her it was the most 'her' they had seen." His air of jet-set allure is far from his origins in Lima. Born in 1954 to a middle class family of 11 children, the young Mario initially wanted to become a priest. In 1976, his studies brought him to London, where he took a rundown flat near Trafalgar Square. "I moved into an unconverted floor of a hospital. A dossers’ home," he recalls. "I didn’t have money to eat, let alone get a bus. So I have never lost the sense that tomorrow I might not have any work". But work he has done. For Vanity Fair, Harpers & Queen and Vogue, on both sides of the Atlantic. His campaign for a Gianni Versace couture collection featuring the queen of pop was billed “Versace presents Madonna by Testino.” It made quite an impact. "I was a no one. Who is this Testino?," he has said. "Until then the only photographers known only by their surnames were Newton, Avedon and Bailey. It did change the way people saw me. I became a brand."  And one with extraordinary pull. Mario once donated a sitting at Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball held to benefit AIDS victims. It went for a staggering £1.26 million, bought by a Ukrainian businessman. And his brand was only strengthened by the news that, having snagged the royal scoop of the 20th-century with those shots of Diana, he'd repeated the trick in the 21st-century. Mario had been asked to photograph the golden couple of 2010 - newly engaged Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton.

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