Fashion and portrait photographer Patrick Demarchelier, known for balancing elegance and natural ease in his work, has died. He was 78.
Born in Le Havre, France, Demarchelier was self-taught. “I didn’t think about a career. I didn’t plan it. It came to me,” he said in a 2015 interview. As a teenager Demarchelier received his first camera as a gift from his step-father, and he put it to good use shooting weddings and passport photos. At 20, he moved to Paris where he eventually found a job working with the Swiss lensman and Vogue contributor Hans Feurer.
Demarchelier started shooting for American Vogue before he moved to New York, following a girlfriend, in 1975. His first cover credit came in 1977, but perhaps his most memorable one was for May 1989, featuring Madonna. That year was a big one for the photographer; not only was his work featured in the inaugural publication of the American Photographer Master Series, but he became the personal portraitist of Diana, Princess of Wales, who had discovered his work on a cover of Vogue. The Frenchman was the first non-Brit to become an official royal photographer.
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The photographer credited his success to Grace Coddington, with whom he first had a close working relationship at British Vogue and which continued when she switched titles in 1988. Their 1990s shoots were sun-lit and featured happy, active models wearing fancy clothes that looked relatable. “Surf’s Up” featured Cindy Crawford with a gaggle of beefy surfers, and they set sail with Naomi Campbell, Beverley Peele, and Tyra Banks for 1992’s “Summer’s Bare Necessities.”
The French Ministry of Culture named Demarchelier an officier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres in 2007, the same year that he received the CFDA Founder’s Award in Honor of Eleanor Lambert. In the 2010s he worked frequently with the model Caroline Trentini, who was then dating his son Victor. Demarchelier appeared in the film The September Issue and can be glimpsed in The Sex & the City movie.
Demarchelier had a monographic exhibition, “The Cult of Personality,” at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2009. Staley-Wise hosted his most recent show in 2019. In 2011 he published a lavish tome titled Dior Couture. “Photographers have to make the clothes look fantastic, that’s why we get paid,” he said in a 2012 interview, “and I have positive eyes.” Come 2018, the photographer also leant his keen eye to the very first anniversary issue of Vogue Arabia, which saw two generations of pioneering models, Imaan Hammam and Iman, join forces on its special covers.
Despite a rich and deep legacy, in 2018 amidst the #MeToo reckoning, Demarchelier was among a number of photographers accused of sexual harassment. 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 denied the allegations.
When his passing was announced on his Instagram account today, the notes of appreciation and condolences to his family flooded in. Amber Valletta said he was amongst the first photographers she worked with. “He is fashion history and legendary photography. We will miss him.”
Demarchelier is survived by his wife Mia, his three sons, and three grandchildren.
Originally published in Vogue.com