ON FRIDAY, March 31, 2022, renown French fashion & portrait photographer Patrick Demarchelier passed away in St. Barths of cancer. He was 78.
Patrick Demarchelier was born in 1943 in Le Havre, a major port in northern France’s Normandy region. As the story goes, he got his start in photography when his stepfather gave him his first Kodak camera on his 17th birthday. He became enchanted with photography, taking pictures of friends and weddings and learning how to retouch negatives and develop film. In the early 1960s, at the age of 20, Demarchelier would move to Paris where he struggled to find steady work, taking jobs as an assistant in several photo labs printing photographs for newspapers, while learning to improve his technique and skills. He would eventually land a job as the photographer at a modelling school, despite having no experience in fashion. It was during this time that he met and apprenticed for the Swiss photographer Hans Feurer who worked for Vogue. This apprenticeship lead to connections at other major publications, and to Grace Coddington, who worked for British Vogue at the time and whom he credits for helping him begin his career.
In 1975, Demarchelier followed a girlfriend to New York City, leaving Paris behind. Here he discovered the world of fashion by working freelance with photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Terry King, and Jacque Guilbert. It was here that he would achieve international fame for his work with esteemed fashion magazines and lead international advertising campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tag Heuer, Lacoste, L’Oréal, Revlon, Lancôme, and more. By the end of the 1970s, fashion magazines around the world⏤including the British, French, and American editions of Vogue⏤had used the French photographer’s work on their covers. Demarchelier also worked as a photographer for news and culture publications such as Life, Newsweek and Rolling Stone. The photographer’s prestige reached new heights in 1989 when Princess Diana asked him to be her personal photographer, making him the first non-British photographer to be hired by the Royal Family.
In 2005 Demarchelier was awarded a contract with Pirelli to shoot their annual trade calendar on location in Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, he was awarded the 2008 calendar, shot on location in Shanghai. Soon, work for the music and film industry followed, with advertising campaigns for films such as Die Another Day, Blow Out, and more. His work was also used for the CD covers of Madonna, Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Elton John, and Quincy Jones.
In 2007, the photographer was honoured with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister of culture, Christine Albanel. In 2008, Demarchelier’s work was displayed in an exhibition titled The Cult of Celebrity at the Petit Palais. In 2011, Demarchelier’s book, Dior Couture, a collection of his photos of the couture pieces from the primary collection by Dior in 1947 as well as those from John Galliano’s time at the fashion house was published.
Patrick Demarchelier’s illustrious career experienced a downfall when, in 2018, the Boston Globe published an extensive report in which he, among other fashion photographers including David Bellemere and Greg Kadel,
was accused of sexual misconduct. Despite denying the allegations and any wrongdoing, the accusations resulted in Vogue and other publications stating they would not work with the photographer again. Condé Nast released the following response to the allegations: “We have informed Patrick we will not be working with him for the foreseeable future.
Demarchelier would become one of the world’s leading fashion photographers most famous for his works of contemporary fashion photography, and for the realism and spontaneity he brought to his work, balancing natural ease and elegance. During his photography sessions Demarchelier would wait for the moment when the model forgot the presence of the camera in order to capture facial expressions that were entirely natural and candid. This feat was accomplished by working quickly, before the models had a chance to think about their expressions. These attempts to capture natural emotions in the moment is one of the essential characteristics of the photographer’s work.
Patrick Demarchelier leaves behind his wife Mia, a former model, their three sons Gustaf, Arthur, and Victor; three grandchildren, and his beloved dog, Puffy.