Stars' Shutter-Bug Opens Exhibition

LONDON -- Princess Diana adored him. Gwyneth Paltrow trusts him completely. Kate Moss looks sexier for him. No wonder they call him Super Mario.

And now Peruvian charmer Mario Testino is to be given the ultimate accolade -- an exhibition of his celebrity photographs at London's National Portrait Gallery.

Most memorably, he took a stunning set of photos of Diana shortly before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997. For the Vanity Fair spread, he transformed the tortured divorcee into a carefree, vivacious model.

His legendary charm works wonders at thawing out the beautiful people and bringing out the best in them. He said of the famous Diana shots, "I caught her in a moment when she had freed herself from a lot of burdens."

"She told me that she trusted me completely, so we straightened her hair and gave her more natural make-up," he told the Sunday Times in the run-up to the show's celebrity launch Tuesday night.

Royals fascinate him and he even persuaded Diana's husband, Prince Charles, to pose for a casual shot of him feeding the chickens at his country home. Photographing Queen Elizabeth is another cherished -- and as yet unfulfilled -- ambition.

The stars love being photographed by the 47-year-old Testino, and accolades abounded in a BBC profile of one of the world's most famous celebrity photographers.

"He sees me as sexier than other people," said British model Moss, singled out by Testino as his favorite subject.

"I trust him completely," said Oscar-winning actress Paltrow. Fellow Hollywood star Sigourney Weaver agreed: "I don't know how long he has been doing this, but I think he makes it feel like his first day."

Testino is based in London but is the eternal globetrotter from Rio to Paris, always in search of the perfect model and the ideal backdrop that will transform Gucci, Burberry or Tommy Hilfiger's image.

A photographic nomad, he travels five days out of seven, taking up to 200 flights a year.

Testino, born in Lima into a family of Irish, Spanish and Italian origins, studied law, economics and international relations before moving to London in the 1980s to start his training as a photographer.

And that appetite for capturing a fleeting moment has never waned.

"I have to say I am lucky that I found something I did like a lot ... I've been doing it for 20 years and still today I wake up excited."

Reflecting on his globetrotting search for perfection he said, "My life and my work are like one long dinner party."