A few thoughts about “Mario Testino: In Your Face” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from Jim Fitts, Head Photoweenie.
Years ago, I attended the opening of the then controversial mid-career exhibition of Herb Ritts’s photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. At the event, Mr. Ritts brushed me off mid sentence in favor of speaking with someone who was much younger and very much better looking. The same thing, by the way, happened when I met Andy Warhol. A less secure person would develop a complex.
I can only imagine that if I met any of the subjects of Mr. Testino’s current exhibition of photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, “Mario Testino: In Your Face”, that the same thing would happen.
I have to admit that I have never been attracted to people who possess the heightened level of physical beauty and fame that Mr. Testino’s subjects have. I have met and worked with numerous drop-dead models and actors during my advertising career and though some of them were charming and quite intelligent, I was more attracted to the crew behind the camera that conceived the image and put all the disparate pieces together.
Because I lack the drool-over-physical-beauty gene, I am torn between thinking that I am either a highly qualified person to comment on “Mario Testino: In Your Face”, or a completely unqualified buffoon. The physical beauty and the celebrity factor that Mr. Testino’s subjects posses couldn’t distract my attention from evaluating the images.
Mr. Testino has certainly mastered the technical aspects of contemporary portrait photography. His images capture color, detail, and texture on a level that I have rarely seen. Many of his images use color as the central theme. Reese Witherspoon in Paris in 2008 for example. He even brings his bold color sense to the picture frames as well. They are painted in candy colors – bright yellows, bright blues, and reds. I would never have thought that framing color photos in primary colored frames would work, but here they definitely enhance the overall impact of the images.
A number of the photographs in the exhibition are printed larger than life. Much larger than life. Their monumental stature reminds me of the 3 dimensional movie advertisements you see in theater lobbies. Unlike a number of exhibitions where the images were printed as large as humanly possible for no apparent reason, the commodious size of Mr. Testino’s images works quite well. Their magnitude and elevated placement gave me the impression that these perfectly formed-creatures are looking down on us commonplace mortals from their lofty Beverly Hills perch.
I found myself thinking “enough already with the pretty people” about three quarters of the way through the second gallery, and I’m not sure that the exhibition wouldn’t be more effective with half the work. That said, “Mario Testino: In Your Face” is a perfectly colorful cure for a grey Boston midwinter day.
One final thing. There is an image that has remained with me since I attended the exhibition. It is Mr. Testino’s portrait of Kirsten Dunst (Kirsten Dunst
, V Magazine, New York 2009). The photograph is relatively quiet with an uncharacteristically subtle color palette. The photograph and Ms. Dunst’s phenomenal beauty certainly did attract me.
Perhaps I am a bit of a celebrity whore.
Photo above left: Mario Testino, Jennifer Lopez, Los Angeles, 2004
All photographs copyright the artist.
Mario Testino: In Your Face
October 21, 2012 – February 3, 2013
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA, 02115
V Magazine, New York, 2009