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Photography & media

Portraits of a model

— May 2014

Article read level: Art lover

Associated media

Cover of Kate Moss by Mario Testino

Who has contributed most to the other's fame? Ian Jones looks at a collection of images of Kate Moss by Mario Testino

Kate Moss by Mario Testino

Kate Moss by Mario Testino is a collection of photographs from fashion magazine shoots, intimate behind-the-scenes images and backstage fashion-show pictures.  This luxurious coffee-table book also includes candid family photographs of Kate and her daughter Lila that have been personally selected by Testino and Moss.  The photographs act as a tribute to the often-intimate relationship between photographer and model.  Two essays, Mario on Kate and Kate on Mario preface the publication and reveal the great friendship, affection and respect that they have for each other.  They also give an insight into the fun behind their friendship and working relationship. 

Although the book covers its subject’s modelling career over a 20-year span, it does not take the reader on a chronological or thematic journey.  Blank red pages denote the beginning and end of a section and hint at a Christian Louboutin shoe or a red carpet film premiere; they do not serve any particular purpose but do add to the luxurious appearance of the book. 

Mario Testino is one of a select group of photographers whose fashion photographs are regularly published in Vanity Fair and Vogue.  The fashion labels Burberry, D&G and Versace frequently commission him to produce images for their advertising campaigns.  His exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2002 was the highest-attended exhibition the institution had hosted. 

Kate Moss was discovered, while still aged only 14, by Sarah Doukas at Storm models.  Initial modelling work for Calvin Klein was followed by campaigns for Chanel, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana as well as beauty company Rimmel.  The photographs of Moss taken by Corine Day were the first to show fashion with a more realistic, less perfect appearance that was often, unfairly, referred to as Heroin Chic.  The photographic movement aimed to present fashion as more inclusive and achievable.  The book presents Moss in several guises and shows why she is regarded as such a versatile model. 

The choice of photographs gives an insight into the close collaboration between these two icons of the fashion world.  Many pictures need no description but an extended caption on some photographs would have been fascinating.  The strange choice of photographs on page 51, a close-up of Kate’s legs, and page 53, a grainy portrait that is barely recognizable, would have benefited from an explanation. The double-page photographs in this book do create one problem; you have to literally force open the spine of the book to view them properly.  This book may well serve as a popular addition to your coffee table. 

Kate Moss by Mario Testino  is published by Taschen. 228pp.  68 colour/71 mono illus. ISBN 978-3836525060


Ian Jones
National Army Museum, London.
Head of Photography

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