The Frenchman Patrick Demarchelier, star photographer of fashion and show business, died Thursday at the age of 78, announced his entourage on Instagram. “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Patrick Demarchelier on March 31, 2022, at the age of 78. He leaves behind his wife Mia, his three sons Gustaf, Arthur, Victor and three grandchildren,” it is written in English on the certified Instagram account of the photographer.
Patrick Demarchelier was among the greatest fashion photographers. Some of his portraits of Princess Diana, Madonna or Angelina Jolie have been around the world. His work was the subject of an exhibition in 2008 at the Petit-Palais in Paris, He is also the author of many album covers, among others for Elton John and Celine Dion. His fame in the fashion world is such that his name is mentioned several times in the film The Devil Wears Prada, a satire of the fashion world where Meryl Streep plays a character inspired by Anna Wintour.
Born in 1943, during World War II, Patrick Demarchelier grew up in Le Havre, France, and moved to Paris at the age of 20. He first worked as an assistant for the famous Swiss fashion photographer Hans Feurer and for the pioneering street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, although he has always considered himself self-taught. “I have no formal qualifications, just the school of life,” he said in a 2003 interview for Vogue magazine. “I mostly learned by taking pictures, a lot of pictures.”
He began photographing for Vogue even before moving to New York in 1975. In the United States, he became one of the most sought-after names in the business, shooting editorials and covers for fashion and consumer magazines.
He joined Harper’s Bazaar magazine as a senior photographer before developing a long-term relationship with Vogue in the late 1980s and 1990s. Between the two titles, he took famous images of the decade’s biggest names – Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington, to name a few-helping to shape the supermodel aesthetic of the time.
Between Press and Brands
In 1989, Patrick Demarchelier made history by becoming Princess Diana’s personal photographer – the first non-British to assume such a role for the UK royal family. He went on to take some of the most memorable photos of the princess, including a famous black and white photo of her in a white dress and tiara, as well as covers for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar that made her a global fashion icon, including the December 1991 issue of Vogue featuring her.
Demarchelier worked for a multitude of other major magazines, including Elle and Rolling Stone, as well as many high-end fashion brands. He participated in the shooting of advertising campaigns for Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and Carolina Herrera. He also photographed the calendar of the brand Pirelli three times: in 2005, 2008 and 2014 (the last time in collaboration with famous photographer Peter Lindbergh).
Over the course of his career, Patrick Demarchelier has photographed many high-profile celebrities, including Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. His reputation as a glamorous yet intimate portraitist thus transcended fashion. Over the course of his six-decade career, Demarchelier has worked with celebrities from the entertainment world and beyond, from Hillary Clinton on the cover of Time magazine to Madonna on the cover of her 1994 album Bedtime Stories.
He also established a long creative partnership with famed stylist Grace Coddington, both for the British and American editions of Vogue. It was his photo of Linda Evangelista on the cover of the September 1992 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, one eye hidden by an arm holding the “A” of the title, that heralded the arrival of a new editor, Liz Tilberis, and a new aesthetic within the brand.
Controversy and Tribute
In 2018, Patrick Demarchelier was caught up in the #MeToo turmoil, with several women accusing him of sexual harassment. The American daily The Boston Globe published in February of this year the testimonies of 7 women, including one of the photographer’s former assistants and models. Allegations that the photographer denies, calling them “ridiculous”. In response to these allegations, the publisher Condé Nast stopped working with him.
At the announcement of his death on Thursday, March 31, many tributes have poured in from the entire world of fashion, including those of several supermodels among those who wanted to greet the late photographer. Posting a cover of Vogue China 2017 photographed by Demarchelier, Bella Hadid wrote on Instagram, “I’m grateful to have had the chance to be in front of your lens. The sweetest, most legendary, soft but full of life. I will miss you Patrick.” Sharing photos of herself taken by Patrick Demarchelier, Cindy Crawford meanwhile said, “Rest in peace Patrick Demarchelier. Thank you for so many great memories and beautiful timeless images.”