From Palmerston North to London, fashion photographer's stunning rise

When Harper's Bazaar or Vogue magazine want a spectacular cover shot, Mariano Vivanco is likely to be the man they call.

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He has photographed some big names, including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. Source: Sunday

The Kiwi photographer has captured the who’s who of the rich and famous like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

Mariano's family moved to New Zealand from Peru when he was young.

“I appreciate, respect and love the fact that I had my formative years in New Zealand,” he told Sunday reporter Daniel Faitaua.

His dad, Dr William Vivanco, soon put them on the map when he made world headlines in 1998.

“My dad’s a scientist, he actually cloned the world’s first cow in a project in Palmy, the Ruakura Project - we all had a little sense of pride.”

Mariano was into rugby at college, but on his last day of school, everything changed when his friend brought in a camera.

“The minute I held it I couldn’t let it go. And my dad, who’d never really spoilt us or indulged us in anything, bought me a camera the next day.”

He studied photography outside school hours until, armed with his portfolio, he headed for Australia.

There he furthered his studies before heading back to Auckland, where he hit the ground running.

“I've done Fashion Quarterly two or three times, more or less a regular with She, Cleo at the moment,” Mariano says.

Celebrity Kiwi photographer Mariano Vivanco with singer and fashion designer Rihanna. Source: Supplied

From Auckland, the photographer moved to London to try his luck hitting the big time.

“I had 10 pounds in the bank and ... Yeah, it was one of those moments where I was like, 'Thank you, God,'” he says after finally landing a job in the UK.

Soon Mariano was working with big names, including Rihanna.

“I met her through working for Elle Magazine and we connected.”

Connected is an understatement - Rihanna helped push Mariano into the fashion stratosphere.

The singer would only do a cover shoot for Harper's Bazaar magazine if the Kiwi photographer shot it.

“I’d never worked for them and I think there was some resistance from them to use me because it’s a big cover, you know, it’s Rihanna, and she wouldn’t accept the job unless I shot it.”

You can watch the full exclusive Sunday story in the video above, where Mariano reveals for the first time the struggles, setbacks and challenges he overcame to rise to the very top of the fashion world all the way from Palmerston North.