On Monday night, the photographer Mario Testino opened a new exhibition of recent work, “East,” at Hamiltons Gallery in London—only his second notable showing since 2017. It will remain open through January 18, 2020.
In January of 2018, the New York Times published a report in which 13 male models and former assistants accused Testino of sexual misconduct.
When the allegations came to light, Testino strongly denied them, but the fashion industry’s response was swift: major brands and publications announced they would no longer employ the photographer. Others followed suit. The takeaway: When it came to Testino’s future and legacy, the report seemed to leave an indelible question mark.
That mark may be fading. Monday’s London vernissage saw high-profile supporters and a fair amount of social media buzz. Looking past the U.K., though, signs may be suggesting the beginnings of a Testino comeback.
A month and a half ago, the photographer revived his signature “Towel Series” (which pictures nude celebrities swathed in terry cloth), evidently in part thanks to Kim Kardashian. He posted the image of Kardashian to his Instagram on October 9.
“I always wanted to do a Towel Series with Kim, but it wasn’t until she asked me to do a portrait of her and her family that I had the chance,” Testino captioned the photograph, which brings the series’s tally of portraits up to 153. “When I arrived at their house, she was wearing a bathrobe and nothing else, but I thought it just looked so perfect. I had to capture it. I asked her if I could photograph only her first, wearing this robe. She has such an amazing power in her body that people sometimes forget that she is also so kind and gentle.” (To note: Kardashian has not liked the post, nor posted it to her own Instagram.)
At this point in time, Testino has not returned to booking gigs as high-profile as documenting Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, or taking the first-ever photos of Madonna’s daughter. But his output does seem to be increasing; in addition to the new exhibition and the revived Towel Series, Testino has booked a number of beauty and fragrance campaigns since the allegations came to light (his most recent campaign was released this past May). More than 10 have been released since the Times published its story.
Meanwhile, Testino has been active on Instagram. Of his 3.8 million followers, dozens are high-profile names. The same goes for those who like his posts and fill their comment sections with heart emojis and messages like “I LOVE YOU.” Fans have echoed those sentiments, effectively drowning out the negativity that followed for months after the Times report.