Mario Testino is a photographer known for bringing out the Beauty in every woman. And Dove is a brand that’s become synonymous with its campaigns for real beauty. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the brand commissioned the Vogue photographer to shoot 32 women from 15 different countries, ranging in age from 11 to 71, in order to reaffirm Dove’s pledge to widen the definition of beauty.
For Testino, it was the perfect job. “I don’t like to exclude; I like to include,” he says. “I think the more the merrier.” And you’d be surprised, he says, how similar it can be photographing real women and the models and actresses who get photographed for a living: “the first time I shoot a model or celebrity is often when they’re just starting out in their career, so it’s new to them, too,” he says.
But that’s not to say the Dove shoots were straightforward: many of the women were chosen because they had been on their own journeys around self-esteem and are now keen to share a positive message. (The British contingent include Rosie, an executive assistant, Vicki, a Paralympic medallist, Michelle and Erinna, a mother and daughter and Megan, a blogger). “A lot of them didn't know it was me who was taking the pictures right up until the last minute, and they got really emotional when they found out. It was really touching for me,” he says.
So what is Testino’s secret to making women feel comfortable on set? “It’s a lot of talking and joking. Its like polishing something, you have to be bring them to life slowly. I sit with them from hair and make up, talk to them, have breakfast with them so you’re starting to know with them, and make them realise you’re there to make them feel good,” he says.
Next trick: let them wear something they feel good in. “We brought clothes to the shoots, but we asked the women to bring their favourite things, too, and we ended up using the things they had brought themselves. We all know what suits us and how we feel good.”
And Mario’s ultimate photographic trick: a smile. “It’s so funny the way when people take selfies these days, all they do is pout,” he says. “We all get photographed so much now, but in the pictures where everybody looks good, you’ll normally find they’ll be smiling. I think positivity, a smile, just makes you look good.”
Dove Real Beauty opens in New York on March 2
Here, look back at some of Testino's biggest smile-inducing shots from the Vogue archive.