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Boston museum puts celebs in the picture

BOSTON -- Mario Testino poses for photographs in front of photographs.

Cameras flash as Testino stands, arms crossed, in black jeans, black suit coat and black collared shirt, the top two buttons open. Behind him, model Gisele Bundchen steps out of a car wearing a sparkly, silver dress in a 2007 Vanity Fair photograph.

Photos of superstars line the dark teal walls as museum Director Malcolm Rogers goes in for a photo with Testino, joking that he is the beast to the photographer's beauty.

“I've never thought of myself as a beauty as I work with these people,” Testino replies with a laugh.

The celebrity and fashion photographer has himself become a celebrity, specifically requested by Madonna and the British royal family, Vogue and Vanity Fair, Gucci and Burberry. He helped launch the modeling careers of Bundchen and Kate Moss.

In his U.S. debut, two Museum of Fine Arts, Boston exhibits showcase Testino's three decades of work. The photographer himself selected the pieces in the exhibits, one of celebrity photos and one of the British royal family portraits.

Most of the pictures are familiar, splashed across American and European Vogues, Vanity Fair and the Internet. But this time, they're 2-, 3- and 8-feet tall.

“This is a contemporary artist who is in the thick of pop culture,” museum curator Anne Havinga said.

Art critics may bash the show, because it's commercial, colorful and sexy, Rogers said.

Jennifer Lopez as a boxer. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and a snarling dog. Nude models, celebrities and athletes.

“I like to bring things here that are unexpected ... take on new color, really to find excitement and beauty in things taken for granted,” Testino said.

Born in Peru in 1954, Testino fell in love with fashion, from bellbottoms to a lilac terrycloth suit, when accompanying his father on business trips to the United States.

He moved to England in 1976 and took his first photograph of the British royal family in 1981, an impromptu shot of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Edward in a parade celebrating Prince Charles's marriage to Lady Diana Spencer. He sat on a mailbox to capture the shot, which features a smiling queen, seeming to look right at the camera.

More than a decade later, Testino went on to photograph the royal family in depth, often capturing them relaxed and informal in official portraits. He made the Vanity Fair photographs of Princess Diana smiling and lounging on a white couch months before her death, as well as the official 21st birthday shots of Princes William and Harry, and Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement photos.

Despite his success, he said he still has insecurities when he's working.

“Just because you've won a gold medal doesn't mean you're going to win another one in a year,” said Testino, who never spends more than four days in one place. “There's nothing more boring than someone who thinks that they're amazing.”

“British Royal Portraits” will be on display from Oct. 21 through June 16.

“In Your Face” will exhibit celebrity portraits and candid shots from Oct. 21 through Feb. 3.

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A woman walks toward a large portrait of Jennifer Lopez, left, by photographer Mario Testino, during the preview of his shows “In Your Face” and “British Royal Portraits” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Wednesday, Oct. 17. At right is a portrait of Madonna. (AP)

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