‘So I started talking about that and the person I was photographing started laughing and forgot about themselves. I told someone the other day, “Look, when I turn my head my cheek follows a second later.” The magic comes when a sitter is not self-conscious.They thought I was more worried about myself, so they let go. If you see someone arrive at a party and they are self-conscious, unable to make eye contact, that will not be the person you are attracted to.” Before, you know, I had only ever seen her being the tough girl, or Marilyn, or the rock chick. ” She agreed, but when I showed her the photographs before retouching she was, like, “Oh my God, people don’t want to see me like this.” I showed them to her again after I had done a little retouching and she was happy.Instead she came in looking very natural, no make up, flat shoes and ponytail. She understood what I was trying to do without the make up. It was for a Versace couture collection, when Gianni was still alive, and when it came out it was billed as “Versace presents Madonna by Testino.” And I was a no one. Until then the only photographers known only by their surnames were Newton, Avedon and Bailey. I became a brand.’ (A powerful one, when Testino started shooting for Gucci in 1995, sales increased by £266?That he had his hair dyed pink at the time probably didn’t help his waiting career either, but no doubt it helped him get noticed as a photographer. ‘I still have mortgages and still pay wages and the way things are going in my business even I could run out of money. ‘Sure we are going through an economic crisis but luckily I’m adaptable. But he was good at maths and went on to study economics at Lima University, where his insistence on wearing pink flares and platform heels around the campus ensured that everyone knew his name. But most of his work is in the US where he has a house on the West Coast and where he is a regular for Vogue and Vanity Fair.Nowadays, Testino rarely stays in the same country for more than a couple of weeks, and when he boards a plane he turns left into first class, unless it’s a Lear jet or a Gulfstream. In recent months he has been travelling for reasons other than work. Stella Mc Cartney and Elle Macpherson were bidding against each other but didn’t win me.His main one is that it is important to tan properly in the sun, rather than using fake tan or sunbeds.
He has also recently returned from Lima, where he opened a children’s clinic intended to help victims of the 2007 earthquake. Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint now; I can be terrible, getting plastered, being wild. I have had many friends die of Aids.’ He has had to stop donating sittings for the moment, though.
‘I was really lucky with Madonna because she was the first celebrity to come to me that wasn’t just a model. With her I knew I had discovered my style because I like to believe what I am photographing. When I started I wouldn’t do airbrushing but then I came to see it was OK for wrinkles but not everywhere, you know, leave the natural texture of the skin.
When Madonna first came to meet me in a hotel I said, “My God, I have never seen you like this without make up!
Mario Testino: 'When I photographed Diana, the first thought was, do I want to be the voyeur who respectfully photographs the princess in her tiara, or do I sit her next to me and do her like she is my mate? He doesn’t move his arms as he walks and, thanks to a long overcoat, it looks as if he is not moving his legs either. Over all, the impression he gives is of being a human log floating calmly on a rippling social pond.
As Mario Testino moves through the café, customers and waiters alike step out of his way. His head seems pretty still, too, although this may be related to the black scarf he wears like a neck brace, fussily arranged so that each end is draped over a shoulder. He also has a certain style, as you would expect from the man who helped discover Kate Moss and Gisele, who became the favourite photographer not only of Diana, Princess of Wales, but also Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, and who persuaded Sir Elton John to get on all fours for a Vogue shoot, so that Elizabeth Hurley could ride on his back.