Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Royal Review - Diana Princess of Wales by Mario Testino

If you follow the life of Diana you've no doubt seen at least one photo from this, her last, photo session. Maybe you first saw them in the Vanity Fair issue, or you were lucky enough to see the exhibit at Kensington Palace. If, like me, you didn't then Diana: Princess of Wales by Mario Testino will make up for it.

I love royal books with pictures in them. To me, a photo can tell more fascinating stories than any rehashed royal anecdote. And I can spend hours looking at them and still discover something new, whether it'd be a rarely seen brooch, to a redesigned outfit, to Victorian royal photos that show relationships before they were destroyed by World War One. Sometimes words get in the way.

This book is not new. And I'd held out buying it, possibly because I didn't want to see the new Diana, whose face had taken on a hard and rather high maintenance look. But for some inexplicable reason I was compelled to buy it now. Although it isn't new, the photographs are still as fresh and revealing as they were 10 years ago. Their naturalness transending the normal dating effects of fashion and hairstyle trends.

In her life she was photographed by many of the worlds reknowed photographers: Snowdon Patrick Lichfield, Patrick Demarchier, Terrence Donovan, Jayne Fincher, Tim Graham, and she looked different in each one. But I'm at a loss to find, amongst any of their photos, ones as iconic as Mario Testino's session. And had this session been photographed by anyone else, I highly doubt they would have produced such compelling images. The photos were taken to support the sale of her dresses, two sessions, one with Snowdon for the catalogue, the other with Testino for Vanity Fair, and there is a marked difference. Diana looks stiff and uncomfortable in the Snowdon session. Indeed, when my husband saw some of the Snowdon photos he asked: "Is that really her?"

To Prince William and Prince Harry the Testino photos definately are. They personally chose photos from this session for the Concert for Diana programme and have said that the photos represent most accurately the mother they really knew. There can be no better endorsement than that.

© Marilyn Braun 2008

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