Obituary of Patrick Demarchelier | Photography


The women in Patrick Demarchelier’s photographs seem to be leading their best lives. Celebrities, stars, models, her royal client Diana, Princess of Wales, are often caught up in those moments of easy perfection after hair and makeup prep, when they’ve been showered with flattery, are ready for the camera, but not still self-conscious in front of the lens. The session did not go from pleasure to work.

Models described him as charming, always complimenting them with the never-lost strong French accent (his inscrutable Franglais had to be subtitled for a fashion documentary).

Demarchelier, who died at the age of 78, came into fashion in Paris in the late 1960s, among a group of young photographers sharing informal news. They favored street shots over studio shots, and young, unexotic models without sulking, visibly having fun in places magazine readers could relate to – a sunny beach, a market. The women also interacted with each other, whereas from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, a model was usually isolated, alone on a page.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1990. Photography: Patrick Demarchelier/Camera Work AG, Berlin

Demarchelier did not pursue the style of full reportage of his colleagues, but transposed their quality of “lucky paparazzi capturing a spontaneous moment” to portraits of the famous beauty: he believed that the perfect photo was an “accident of half a -second”. To catch it, he worked pretty fast, especially in the era of small teams until the late 90s, and he could always be counted on to deliver salable cover to the newsstand.

When the editor-in-chief of American Vogue in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada checks that he’s been booked, everyone understands that she means: “I want this delicate work with a diva to be delivered now, without drama.”

“Damn braces, bless relaxes” by William Blake was the principle of his best covers. He snapped a few rambling snaps of teenager Christy Turlington lounging after a day of numerous outfit changes at a Mexican beach resort, and lo and behold, a stunning cover, Vogue 1989. The same year, he put his young son Victor to inside the huge terrycloth bathrobe. that Vanessa Duve wore on a beach, and caught them disheveled and laughing together, another blanket.

Diana saw and liked him so much, the boy close in age to her sons, that she asked Demarchelier for a private portrait session. He brought in stylist Sam McKnight to cut her hair like model Linda Evangelista, but with a tiara at the top, and reassured the unconfident Diana of her glamour; both were rewarded with memorable images using the models’ visual language.

Twenty years before, Norman Parkinson had produced a beautiful Vogue cover of Princess Anne in romantic fashion in the tradition of her royal mother and grandmother, but the Demarchelier-Diana collaboration was new; this helped make Diana a celebrity independent of the Windsor family business. Her friend, then British Vogue editor Liz Tilberis, asked Palace for permission to reproduce a cover image and commissioned new footage.

Brazilian model Caroline Trentini poses for a page of the 2008 edition of the Pirelli calendar, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier.
Brazilian model Caroline Trentini poses for a page of the 2008 edition of the Pirelli calendar, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier. Photography: Patrick Demarchelier/EPA

Demarchelier was anything but born high, one of five sons to a half-French, half-English mother and often-absent father with a traveling movie theatre, who then left for Africa permanently. The family huddled together with relatives in Le Havre Industriel, Normandy, and the boy was a slacker at school, always taking pictures with his eyes, under bright light (his artwork, indoors and out). outside, is very bright). His mother divorced and remarried, and when he was 17 his stepfather gave him a simple Kodak, with which he made portraits and wedding photos for a small fee, finding a job as a retoucher laboratory and passport photo printer. His only goal was to go to Paris, which he did at the age of 20, earning his living as a newsprint printer.

Demarchelier became a house photographer in a Parisian modeling agency, then assistant to Hans Feurer, already shooting new fashion, ready-to-wear on unkempt models, for the young, spirited magazines Elle, Marie Claire and Nova. Feurer saw the clothes first, Demarchelier viewed each assignment as character portrait work, leaving the clothes to the choice and arrangement of the fashion editor and stylists; even in his powerful Rizzoli book, Dior Couture (2011), the models triumph over their fabulous outfits.

This approach paid off slowly: Condé Nast editorial director Alex Lieberman recruited him into the magazine’s empire in the ’70s, but his success really grew in the ’80s, when movie stars and music, and models who have become celebrities themselves, have contributed their names and huge personalities in editorial and publicity imagery.

Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell in New York, 2016.
Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell in New York, 2016. Photography: Patrick Demarchelier/Camera Work AG, Berlin

Demarchelier’s contract allowed him to do both types of work, including ad campaigns for Dior, Chanel, Armani and Ralph Lauren, and that privilege continued when in 1992 Tilberis moved to the Hearst Corporation in New York, to publish Harpers, and demanded as part of his deal that Hearst pay the full price of appointing Demarchelier as principal photographer.

The company got good value as it also provided covers and editorial for Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine and Esquire. Condé Nast had to offer him seven figures to return in 2004, when his Manhattan studio had grown to three floors and a long payroll, although he remained nostalgic for his New York debut in 1974, just him and the cameras, managing their own lights.

Despite some star-studded male portrayals, this great crew was entirely dependent on Demarchelier’s relationship with the female subjects, including most of the Oscars red carpet stars, as well as Madonna, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Janet Jackson, for who he discreetly photographed topless. Rolling stone.

Demarchelier said he disliked exhibitionist women, but over the decades his outspoken pleasure in close proximity to women persuaded many seated people of at least a flash of cleavage and sometimes nudity.

Then, in 2018, a Boston Globe investigation reported that this widespread report had been predatory over the years, with seven women, including an assistant, alleging unwanted advances from Demarchelier. He denied the charges, but Condé Nast immediately announced that he would no longer work for him.

He met Mia Skoog while she was modeling for a Vogue shoot, and they married early in her career with the magazine. She and their sons, Gustaf, Arthur and Victor, survive him.

Patrick Demarchelier, photographer, born August 21, 1943; passed away on March 31, 2022

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