Rio de Janeiro, by Mario Testino
(Image credit: press)

On reflection, there is probably no better person to capture Rio de Janeiro's high octane energy than Mario Testino. For his ninth collection of photographs, the Peruvian photographer captures -- almost effortlessly, it seems -- the city's incredible energy, abandon and louche sensuality.

There is no misstep in any of the hundred-odd images; just a pulsing rhythm of intimate moments snapped in grainy mainly black and white frames that surprise with their authenticity.

Supermodel Gisele Bündchen sans make-up, straddling a beautiful man on a bed in Testino's hotel room, has never looked more lovely, more unguarded, nor more innocent. Ana Beatriz Barros, the Brazilian model who fronts the cover of the Wallpaper* June issue, fairly smoulders in and out of the pool. There are sunsets on the beach and grinning Carnivale floats alongside a bevy of glamazons and men reeking of testosterone in various states of undress; and never too distant in the photographs is Rio itself in a variety of moods -- an Art Deco apartment, an Oscar Niemeyer house, a boardwalk, an aerial view of the bay.

Individually, the photographs showcase Testino's playful joy and obvious affection for his subject, but taken collectively -- in this handsome volume produced by Taschen -- they so perfectly capture Rio's warmth and rich complexity. It's a tricky act to pull off, but as Bündchen points out in her introduction: "Mario is Peruvian by blood, but I think his heart is Brazilian. The way he's comfortable in his skin; the way his spirit expresses itself...He's like a little kid in some ways...and that playfulness shows in his pictures. So imagine what Rio, this incredibly sexy place, does to him. It brings all those qualities into even sharper focus."

Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.