For Vogue Australia's April issue, internationally renowned photographer took the reins as guest editor - with striking results

It's not often a fashion photographer of Mario Testino's calibre comes to Sydney for more than a few days. But for his first trip to Australia in January this year, the legendary snapper became so enamoured of the country that he changed his itinerary. "It's rare that I stay in a place longer than four or five days before I'm back on a plane and going to the next job," he says. "This time, however, I ended up changing my entire plans to stay in Sydney longer than I was meant to. I can't remember the last time that happened."

Describing the guest editorship as a "celebration" of Australian contemporary culture and our unique landscape, Testino shot locally bred but internationally recognised models like Catherine McNeil, Jessica Hart, Gemma Ward, Jordan and Zac Stenmark (and brother Louis), plus model David Genat. And for the cover, Testino called upon one of his favourites - Dutch stunner Lara Stone - to pose alongside Genat and the three Stenmark brothers with Sydney Harbour as the backdrop.

Other faces appearing in the issue include Austrian beauty Stella Lucia, Aussie up and comers Megan Blake-Irwin, Alannah Walton and Alice Morgan - not to mention an assortment of buff and bronzed local surfers, skaters, lifeguards and creatives. For Testino, casting locals in the shoot was a way to celebrate the local culture.

"When I arrived in Australia, I immediately felt very comfortable, instantly seeing the similarities between the cultures of Sydney and Lima, Peru, where I'm from," he says. "Maybe it was the beach, maybe it was the surfing, maybe it was the idea of being in contact with the sea ... This led to the sense of freedom and openness, which made me realise that it was the quality I had also recognised in all the Australian friends I knew. Perhaps it was this quality that had made them so successful internationally."

Vogue Australia's April issue is on sale today.

First look: inside Vogue Australia’s Mario Testino issue