Mario Testino can't escape fashion. Even when he's photographing people in his native country of Peru, it's about the clothes. His latest exhibit, "Alta Moda" -- which means "high fashion" in Spanish and opens at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute on the Upper East Side Nov. 20 -- is a selection of those works, which have a saturated, painterly quality about them.
Testino traveled to Cusco several times over the course of the last five years to document Peruvians in traditional costumes, which include colorfully embellished and appliquéd jackets, skirts and dresses. So far, yet so close to the runway. "I guess I'm at a stage when I want to give back to my country, and the best way I can do that is though culture," said Testino, who also runs a non-profit gallery in Lima called Mate. "By doing these pictures, I hope to highlight the traditions and culture of my home country."
That's not to say the world-renowned photographer, who shoots plenty of fashion campaigns (along with pretty much every famous-person family portrait in existence), is moving away from the industry. In fact, he's even embracing new technologies more enthusiastically than many of his peers. "I think there is a place for it," he said of Instagram, on which he recently opened an account. "Developments are always happening in photography, and this is one of them."
Since joining Instagram on Nov. 11, Testino has posted 28 times. Just this afternoon he posted of photo of himself and Kim Kardashian with the caption, "HI KIM!" In fact, most of the photos are of Testino, not by Testino. But that's only because he's too busy, you know, shooting major campaigns and editorials."The pace has changed," he said of his fast-moving career. "At one time, I had to wait a week for the film to come back from the lab, and now the picture is ready immediately!"
"Alta Moda" runs Nov. 20 through March 29, 2014, at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute. Visit Qssi.org for more info.