In an industry that celebrates gender equality with such great feeling and pride, the lens at which we examine masculinity in such a feminine landscape remains obscure. In fact, the only tactics designers have been able to come up with in helping the two coexist are in the form of unisex collections and co-ed runway shows. But even then, inclusivity is typically used as a marketing tool, and unfortunately, as a way to keep budgets low. That hypocrisy is what photographer Mario Testino is facing head-on in his new book, Sir.
At the beginning of his career, Testino primarily shot nudes. It was his way of taking advantage of the gift of light, a way to build his craft from the ground up. After mastering portraits in the '80s, Testino would go on to shoot for Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, and brands like Gucci, Burberry, Chanel, and more. Today, he is one of the most respected photographers of his time. And, like the old adage goes, his pictures really do speak a thousand words.
Testino's latest tome is a collection of 300-or-so of his most iconic images of everyone from David Beckham to Mick Jagger, Brad Pitt, Usher, and back. While some verge on the side of glamorously erotic, others evoke the playful and flirtatious side the publishing world has come to know and love of his work. As for why the photographer decided to put all of them in one place after such a storied career? Well, that was the simple part: Enough time had gone by for something like this to make sense, and putting unpublished photographs alongside published ones, according to Testino, just "felt right."
Even reading the intro, a conversation between the photographer and Patrick Kinmonth, it's hard to tune out Testino's adorable Peruvian accent in your head. But what he has to say about the way the fashion industry photographs male subjects — and in turn, how we perceive them — is the moment when his visuals go beyond aesthetic and create their own dialogue with the viewer.
"I think that the way men are seen in photography, in fashion, and the way that men look at pictures of themselves has changed in recent years," Testino says in the intro. "It is a subject that has come into focus. The masculine image, a man's personal style, changing attitudes to the male face and body: I feel pictures of men are now scrutinized the same way men as those of women have been for a long time by women." The photographer chose the images based on "individual quality," meaning if it was impactful enough on its own, its destiny was to live in the book.
Ahead, we've got a preview of some of the photographs you can find in the Taschen-published Sir. And if you'd like a copy of your own, you'll be pleased to know that despite its weight in pounds, it's one of the more affordable coffee table books on the market, and can be bought online through the digital platform Mira Mira. But, trust us when we say you won't want to put this one down, regardless of how heavy it may be.