“I decided very early on in my career that I would go to where the work is, rather than wait for the work to come to me,” said photographer Mario Testino, whose latest project brought him home to his native Peru. The exhibit Alta Moda pays homage to Peruvian culture and traditional dress at the Dallas Contemporary, September 21–December 22. Take a sneak peek.
The project brought him back to his home country where he felt compelled to capture the vibrancy of traditional dress. “So much Peruvian history lives on in these clothes,” said Testino. “I have become aware on my travels that when a country loses the connection between its history and its traditional dress, something truly precious is lost.” Alta Moda—Portuguese for “high fashion”—is a more personal project for Testino, one that celebrates the exquisite embroidery, dyes, and handmade details in Cusco’s historic costumes. But the project wasn’t only meant to document these garments for their cultural significance; he also felt compelled to pay homage to his country’s photography. He was inspired by the work of Martin Chambi, a Peruvian photographer known for his portraits taken in the towns and countryside of the Andes. The photos even use a re-creation of one of Chambi’s backdrops that his grandchildren lent to Testino for the project. Testino, who has worked everywhere from palaces in London to underground clubs in Berlin, intends for Alta Moda to carry on the history of ethnographic photography; he hopes to capture what he describes as “the intensity of spirit” in the Peruvians who wear the clothes.
Mario Testino Alta Moda Exhibit will be on view at the Dallas Contemporary from September 21 through December 22.