I recently read an article on BBC News about fashion photographer Mario Testino’s return to his cultural ancestry in Peru. For anyone wishing to see the article, there is a link to it here. As fashion and photography are both subjects that I have studied and practiced, I was already familiar with some of his famous photographs of Kate Moss, Madonna and Princess Diana. This collection was different. Named Alta Moda, or High Fashion, the photographs document the incredible traditional dress of the indigenous populations surrounding Cusco, high in the Andean mountains. Indigenous dress is something that we have seen a lot of while in South America, from the Guatemalan Mayan population, to the Kuna in the San Blas and the many varieties of Peruvian and Ecuadorian dress. It is colourful, individual and of course highly practical. While traditional clothing is often mimicked, or serves as inspiration for fashion designers and high street stores (not that this is a bad thing, I own many mock Aztec print dresses and my backpack is currently bulging with textile prints and accessories inspired by traditional designs), I think it is fantastic that Mario Testino has photographed from the source – indigenous Peruvians wearing their own traditional dress. There is pride, honesty, beauty in every one of his photographs.
The Mario Testino collection is housed at MATE, in the distrinct of Barranco in Lima. Alongside Alta Moda is a permanent collection of his celebrity photographs, including Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon and Princess Diana.