Mario Testino on Real Beauty, Real Women, and Real Photographs

Related Article
Celebrity Beauty
Celebrities Swear by These Beauty Buys (and They're Cheaper than Brunch)
Read Article
Mario Testino Dove Campaign
Photo: Courtesy of Dove

In a world of Instagram filters, photo-editing apps, and photoshopped magazine covers where plastic surgery has become the norm, it’s easy to lose track of what real beauty is all about, which is why Dove is making it its mission to remind us.

Since 1957, Dove has celebrated real women. The beauty giant uses women of all shapes, colors, and sizes instead of models in its campaigns, never digitally distorts bodies, and is aiming to educate more than 20 million women around the world on body confidence and self-esteem by 2020 thanks to its Dove Real Beauty Pledge.

To mark the 60th anniversary of its #RealBeauty campaign, Dove collaborated with renowned photographer and creative director Mario Testino to capture 30 portraits of real, beautiful women from around the world. “The way Dove empowers women to celebrate their own unique beauty has long resonated with me,” Testino explains. “I have always taken the same approach with my pictures. A photographer has a choice – they can take a picture and make it about themselves by using avant-garde techniques, sometimes capturing the weakness in women, or they can choose to give their picture over to the woman in front of the lens by making her look herself and feel her most powerful.”

Here, Testino talks exclusively to Savoir Flair about real beauty and real women.

Mario Testino Dove
Photo: Courtesy of Dove

Dove has pledged to only feature real women and real beauty in its campaigns. Why do you think that’s important?
I love that Dove is using its power to make a difference. It’s not just to sell another soap or another hand cream, but instead to really empower women, to change realities. Especially in the times we live in now, where exclusion is becoming a worry, this is a brand working on inclusion.

What inspires you about meeting real and unique women?
I think women are women. Indian, American, South American, German – they’re all beautiful in my eyes. I get excited about discovering the new aesthetics and the new ways of looking at women, which do change from country to country. With Dove, we traveled to London, LA, and Delhi to meet women with unique and powerful stories. With my camera, I look inside the person. If it was only about the surface, my pictures would be boring.

With my camera, I look inside the person. If it was only about the surface, my pictures would be boring.

The societal ideals of beauty have changed so much over time, and so much since you first entered the industry. What can you tell us about that and how it’s evolved?
When I first started working, we were influenced by the 50s, so we tried to make hair, makeup, everything perfect. All of a sudden, in the 90s, came the real woman. The woman we saw in the street started being communicated in magazines. What are we seeing today? Models like Christy Turlington and Kate Moss – they’re still around and they’re in their 40s; they’re not 20-year-old models.

Mario Testino Dove Campgain
Photo: Courtesy of Dove

What is your personal opinion on the often-controversial topic of over-photoshopped models and actresses in the industry?
The next generation has access to all these tools where you can retouch everything yourself on your phone. Reality now isn’t just what we see or what we know, things that actually exist; it’s become everything you can have through Photoshop. To me, something without flaws isn’t exciting. I find perfection quite boring because it’s not real. It doesn’t have a consequence at the end of the day.

To me, something without flaws isn’t exciting. I find perfection quite boring because it’s not real.

How do you, on your sets and in your daily life, work to empower the women around you?
I think positivity and a smile make you look so good. So, on set, I sit with the women I’m working with during hair and makeup, talk to them, have breakfast with them, so I start to really get to know them, and then that helps make them realize that I’m here to make them feel good. In those pictures where everybody looks good, you’ll normally find that they’re smiling.

Do you think men can be feminists? And if so, would you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes. A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men!

Mario Testino Dove
Photo: Courtesy of Dove

How did you find the experience of working on this campaign with Dove? How was it different?
For me, it’s been great working on this campaign because it was an exercise for myself. I kept thinking, what happens if I don’t change anything? If I don’t retouch, will the result be the same? I want that to influence the pictures I create for magazines, rather than the other way around, because – in a way – it makes those of us in this business kinder, gentler, and less hard on each other.

What is real beauty to you?
Real beauty is the unique mix of external beauty and the beauty found on the inside, but it’s also how one feels. One can be very beautiful if one projects positive energy. There are certainly different aesthetics in different times, places, and societies – and discovering that is so exciting. Exterior beauty can become boring because, once you’ve seen it, there is nothing left to discover. True beauty does come from the inside.

Now learn how to take a Testino-worthy photograph with his top picture tips.

Be in the know.
Every day, receive Savoir Flair's top articles straight to your computer or smartphone. It's never been easier to stay up-to-date on the latest fashion, beauty, and lifestyle stories.
Click to get the latest news on your device
You can stop notifications at any time.
Unsubscribe from our notifications
Click to unsubscribe from notifications on this device.
Be in the know.
Every day, receive Savoir Flair's top articles straight to your computer or smartphone. It's never been easier to stay up-to-date on the latest fashion, beauty, and lifestyle stories.
Connect using Facebook Messenger