Trailblazer Patrick Demarchelier is famed for his award-winning photography of top models and celebrities. His career highlights include a barrage of luxury campaigns for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and more. He worked for top fashion magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. In 1989, he began shooting Princess Diana – becoming her personal photographer until the early ‘90s.
For those unfamiliar with Patrick Demarchelier, his art is unquestionably familiar.
Demarchelier is renowned for his photographs of supermodels adorning the covers of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Glamour amongst many others. A pioneer in contemporary fashion photography. Truly, an industry great. And, so revered is he (as one of the most sought-after fashion photographers in the world) that he, too, shot the greats – Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell. To be photographed by Demarchelier was equal to instant success.
On Thursday 31 March, 2022 – news of Demarchelier’s death sent shockwaves through the fashion industry. An Instagram post on his official page announces his passing with,
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Patrick Demarchelier on March 31st 2022, at the age of 78.”
“He is survived by his wife Mia, his three sons Gustaf, Arthur, Victor and three grandchildren.”
A photographer and friend of Demarchelier’s (preferring to remain anonymous) told WWD that Demarchelier died due to cancer in St. Barths. His wake and funeral service are set to take place in St. Barthelemy on 11 and 12 April, 2022.
Transition to Fashion
Demarchelier began his profession as a photographer in Paris at the age of 20, after moving from Le Havre. After working as an assistant photographer, including for Henri Cartier-Bresson, he secured a job with renowned photographer Hans Feurer. This is where his saunter into fashion photography becomes firmly established.
In 1975, he relocates to New York to open his first studio in the United States. In the decades thereafter, his work features in nearly every fashion publication in both the U.S. and around the world.
Demarchelier was Harper’s Bazaar’s lead photographer for several years before moving on to competitor Condé Nast – where he made an exclusive deal. This paved the way for his work for magazines like Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Allure amongst others.
Over the course of his career, Demarchelier published numerous photography books. “Fashion Photography: Patrick Demarchelier” his first book, was released in 1989. Other books, like “Dior Couture Patrick Demarchelier,” feature his photographs of models wearing Dior clothing dating back to 1947.
He also made cameos in “Sex & The City”, “The September Issue”, “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Devil Wears Prada”. His name became so synonymous with fashion, that Meryl Streep’s character even mentioned him by name in the 2006 feature film.
In 1993, he captured Janet Jackson’s topless cover for Rolling Stone – an iconic image which depicts (then-boyfriend) Rene Elizondo cupping her breasts.
Demarchelier also photographed Madonna during her “Justify My Love” days in 1990. He captured a list of celebrity names so long that it’s easier to just Google the man than to list them all. He shot for major designers, including Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Wang – contrasting this work via projects for both beauty companies and non-luxury brands like H&M.
Demarchelier made his arrival into the fashion world in the late 60s, amongst a group of up and coming photographers. Thru this collaboration, a new tone emerged.
Street snaps took the place of studio shots, and photographs taken in more common contexts (like the supermarket) began to frequent the pages of subversive street media and fashion magazines. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Demarchelier firmly established his ‘spontaneous moment’ style of photography in small crews. The lensman crafted his career by photographing ultra-photogenic people in their best light. The same goes for just about everything else he captured. “I like the beauty of life, the beauty of people, animals, everything,” he told WWD in 2007.
He had to work and move quickly to catch people in his trademark, candid style. “When you work very fast, you surprise people. You catch them in a good expression,” he once said.
Just before the 90s hit, the French-born creative caught the eye of much-loved Princess Diana – who hired him as her personal photographer in 1989.
The Princess of Wales described him as a “dream”. In fact, she liked his photography so much that she commissioned him to officially photograph her two sons – William and Harry. Shortly thereafter, he became the British royal family’s first non-British official photographer. He started photographing Diana in 1989 and remained her personal photographer until the early 1990s.
Lady Di’s personal hairstylist, Sam McKnight, first met Demarchelier on a Vogue shoot in 1990. This is the shoot that saw McKnight give the princess her new, era-defining cut.
McKnight says he has “so much” to thank Demarchelier for.
“I had the BEST TIMES with Patrick, endless incredible iconic photos, wonderful memories, a lifetime of laughter, I have so much to thank him for, there will never be another.”
In 2007, the French government named Demarchelier an Officer in the Order of the Arts and Letters. For his contributions to fashion photography, he was awarded the Lucie Award in 2008.
Demarchelier built an incredibly strong name for himself, working on luxury brand advertisements for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior; as well as for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and other leading fashion magazines.
After Demarchelier is accused of sexual misconduct in 2018, his ubiquity in the fashion industry dwindles a bit (although he denies the claims). He once said, “I shall die working.” Retirement was definitely not something he had in mind.
Etheleen Staley, cofounder of the Staley-Wise Gallery, represented Demarchelier in New York for around 25 years. She describes his legacy as,
“a civilized person, a great photographer and a good father.”
One of his most beautiful images – two models wearing strapless John Galliano-designed Dior gowns near elaborate topiary hedges (pictured below) – hangs on her office wall. Staley says, “Of all the pictures [that we have,] these are the ones that we put in our office.”
Demarchelier’s work on major film and Broadway advertisements and record covers (for Madonna, Mariah Carey and many others), shows his skill in full-force. Demarchelier also shot Kate Moss, Jennifer Lopez, and Sophia Loren for the renowned Pirelli calendar from 2005 to 2008.
Graydon Carter, Air Mail founder and coeditor (previously of Vanity Fair) describes Demarchelier to WWD as,
“a singular photographer and a funny and spirited colleague. At the same time, he spoke in an English/French conspiratorial mumble, and I probably understood a quarter of what he said.”
This September, the Camera Work Gallery in Berlin is opening a Demarchelier exhibition. Since 2014, the gallery has been representing him in Germany. The show, including 42 works, will be on display this coming autumn.
Demarchelier is survived by his three sons: Gustaf, Arthur, and Victor Demarchelier.
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