‘Alta Moda’ Exhibit Pays Tribute to Mario Testino’s Peruvian Roots

The famed fashion photographer strays from his typical celebrity subject matter to shoot the brilliant colors, patterns, and fabrics worn by locals from his native Peru.

Alta Moda is quite different from the portraits I am perhaps best known for,” famed fashion photographer Mario Testino said of his latest exhibit.

Taking a bold approach in his newest venture, Testino has strayed away from his typical subjects—celebrities and fashion models—and traded them in for natives of his home country, Peru. Alta Moda—which translates from Spanish as “high fashion”—examines traditional Peruvian dress from the Cusco region of the country.

“I usually try to capture the moment,” Testino said. “But with this series, I wanted to do something very different—not just with my own work, but also with the practice of photography. I tried to fit as much time and history into each frame as possible—from the traditional and festive clothing to the Chambi backdrops to the Peruvian people in them.”

Testino traveled to Peru numerous times over a period of five years to explore the variety of costumes that exist in the region, looking at the traditional and festive dress of both males and females. Through further examination, he pulled inspiration for the 27 images from the history of Peruvian photography and the work of Martin Chambi, one of the first major Latin American photographers who was known for capturing pictures of the local landscape and people. Testino even utilized a piece of furniture from Chambi’s family in the backdrop of the images. Emphasizing the bright colors and ornate fabrics of the Peruvian wardrobe, Testino highlights everything from the montera, a hat decorated with plumes that men wear during the Carnaval de Ccatcca, to the numerous polleras (skirts) worn by women to exude social status and wealth.

The Alta Moda photographs, however different the subject matter may be, still possess Testino’s Vogue or Vanity Fair mentality. The costumes’ decorative nature—with their rich embroidery and opulent patterns—provides the “high fashion” quality of Testino’s work. Most importantly, however, the images celebrate Testino’s native culture.

“It‘s a tribute to traditional Peruvian costumes, to their embroideries, their colors, the fabrics that are still worn in the Andes,” Testino told Vogue Paris. “I wanted to pay tribute to the richness of traditional clothing, to which the Peruvians are very attached”

Mario Testino Alta Moda is on display November 20 through March 29, 2014, at Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in NYC.