Madonna & Mario
What happens when the celebrated photographer of Any Objections? is interviewed by one of his most celebrated subjects? Ask Madonna and Mario Testino
Madonna: What inspired you to publish this book? Was it an idea that you’ve been working on?
Testino: Well I started working on a book of nudes because I had no work. I mean, I went through a period when nobody wanted me. All the publishers said no, no, no. You know, you go to any bookstore and there are a hundred nude books and the public goes, “Oh, another nude book.” So we finally hit upon the idea of a book inspired by a portfolio I did for a magazine called Dutch. That portfolio, like the book is a juxtaposition of images that “talk” to one another. Basically I see Any Objections? being the view of a South American boy, properly raised, documenting the wildness around him.
M: Do you consider yourself a very spiritual person?
T: Yes. I’m religious in my own way, and I think that religion has a lot to do with your spirituality, no?
M: Well, you’re Latin.
T: Yeah. I don’t go to church. I don’t do a lot of things that probably a good Catholic should.
M: But Catholics should be bad.
T: Catholicism has a sense of morals and of values that I learned as a kid, and that I have applied to my life. And my main thing in life is “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like them to do unto you.” And I live by that.
M: Do you think that artists have the responsibility to inspire. educate, or elevate their audience?
T: I think that they do. I think that as a photographer I also have an obligation of documentary. I respect photographers like Martin Chambi in Peru, August Sander in Germany, Cecil Beaton in England because they really documented their lives; we learn from them. I think that we have the responsibility of teaching what we have learned. I see my godchildren and I’m amazed at how differently they are prepared from how we were prepared for life. I don’t know if it maybe has something to do with the `openness” of the world, or …
M: I think so. Look at our parents’ generation; they were so repressed. They weren’t made to feel comfortable with so many things about themselves. I look at my daughter and I think. God, she’s going to have a different life. I mean, I’m so much freer than my parents. In a way, I envy her. But all that Catholic repression inspired me too.
T: I think we all need a bit of repression in our lives.
M: Structure, order, and…
T: Yes, you need a certain amount of order as a child. As an adult you can decide to take the things that have value and to leave the other things.
M: I really like this book, and I’m not just kissing your ass for the sake of this interview. But I think you’ve managed somehow to capture something very special, because it isn’t fashion, and it isn’t necessarily photographs of sexy people. It’s much more like photojournalism. You have a sense of wonderment and innocence about your work, and that comes through. As a child, did you have role models? Did you have role models growing up? Or even now, is there someone you truly admire?