As origin stories go, Mario Testino's is a pretty good one. "Years ago, Madonna introduced me to Gianni Versace," he recalled at the opening of an exhibition of his work at L.A.'s Prism Gallery. "That opened up a lot of doors for me. At the time, I was completely unknown."
"Unknown" wouldn't be the word today. Alessandra Ambrosio, André Balazs, Kim Kardashian, and Zac Posen were among the many who crowded the vernissage of Testino's first gallery showing in the U.S. in seven years. And even for the constantly photographed, Testino stands alone. "He captures the realness in people," Kardashian said. "He gets them—both as being glamorous and also natural." Ambrosio confirmed, saying, "He captures the moment—from the colors to the attitude. No matter who he's shooting, there's always attitude in the pictures."
For the photographer, the evening was a rare moment on the other side of the lens, both literally and figuratively. "It's funny, because we fashion photographers do our work. We're not usually in front of the firing squad, and sometimes exposing your work in this manner feels like that," he said. "But it's great to be here."
At nearby Madeo, an equally glamorous crowd had gathered for Chanel and Charles Finch's annual pre-Oscars dinner. There seemed hardly a corner that wasn't clogged with star power. At one end of the restaurant sat the young Hollywood crowd, including Chloë Moretz, Gia Coppola, and Zoë Kravitz, there with mom Lisa Bonet; farther inside, Liberty Ross stopped to talk to Liz Goldwyn while Rachel Zoe and Marisa Tomei looked on. In the back were the blondes: Kate Bosworth, Poppy Delevingne, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley all sat together. As would be expected, Oscar talk dominated the conversations. "I loved Django Unchained, and I loved Life of Pi," Huntington-Whiteley said. "We'll have to see what goes on tomorrow." But even the biggest night of the year in Hollywood couldn't keep anyone at home the night before. "I've been invited to a lovely dinner," the model exclaimed. "I'd be a crazy woman not to accept."