Patrick Demarchelier, fashion photographer, dies aged 78

Patrick Demarchelier, a photographer whose work helped define fashion and celebrity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, died Thursday. He was 78.

His death was announced on his Instagram page. The announcement did not say where he died.

The personal portraitist of Diana, Princess of Wales and the first non-British to become official royal photographer, Mr Demarchelier was best known for his work with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and he was the subject of a major bidding war between glosses. In fact, he’s become so synonymous with Vogue that his name made a cameo appearance in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. “Get me Patrick” was a much-quoted line from it.

“Patrick makes simple photos perfect, which of course is tremendously difficult,” wrote Vogue editor Anna Wintour in an essay for a 2015 Christie’s auction of his work. “He makes attractive women look beautiful and beautiful women look real.”

His ability to combine lightness and elegance distinguishes his work. His photographs of Diana often had an unstudied aspect that crystallized the princess’ informal personality, such as a snap of her sitting on the floor hugging her knees in 1990 in a strapless white dress and diamond tiara. A photo of Madonna for the cover of Vogue in 1989 showed her in a white bathing suit, laughing and looking over her shoulder into a pool as if she had just surfaced from a swim.

“I like to take the pictures before people get too confident,” Mr. Demarchelier told actress Keira Knightley in Interview magazine. “I like being spontaneous and getting a shot before the subject thinks too much about it.”

Patrick Demarchelier was born in 1943 (most sources put the date as August 21) and grew up in Le Havre, France. With no formal training in photography, he began photographing his friends and moved to Paris at the age of 20, although he made his career in the United States. His work as an assistant to Hans Feurer, a Swiss photographer working for Vogue, brought him to the attention of the magazine and he began his relationship with him even before he hooked up with a girlfriend in New York in 1975.

He had a long creative partnership with fashion editor Grace Coddington at both British and American Vogue. But it was his cover photo of Linda Evangelista for the September 1992 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, with one eye obscured by an arm holding up a title “A,” that heralded the arrival of a new editor, Liz Tilberis, and a new aesthetic : clean, glamorous and casual.

Mr. Demarchelier’s rise in magazines coincided with the rise of supermodels and celebrity covers, and he was integral to the creation of both. He recommended Kate Moss Calvin Klein, caught Cindy Crawford being carried on a surfboard by a dozen excited guys, and was responsible for Vogue’s 100th anniversary cover in 1999, which featured 10 of the biggest names in fashion – Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington among them – in white shirts knotted at the waist and jeans hanging from a ladder like a gorgeous painting crew at lunchtime.

Like Princess Diana, Madonna was drawn to Mr. Demarchelier’s relaxed approach and he became one of her favorite photographers. He photographed her for her 1990 single “Justify My Love” wearing a black leather baseball cap and vest, arms crossed and tucked under the armpits, cigarette dangling from her lips.

He got Janet Jackson to pose shirtless for the cover of Rolling Stone, with an unnamed man’s hands cupping her breasts from behind, in an image that signaled her rise as an independent musical force.

With a swish of graying hair, wormy eyebrows, and a squinting grin, Mr. Demarchelier was not above using his own Gallic charm—and a patented form of Franglais—to coax a subject into doing his bidding.

“No one understands anything they say,” Ms. Coddington told The New York Times in 2016.

Beyond magazines, Mr. Demarchelier has worked with brands such as Christian Dior, for whom he also authored a 2011 book, Dior: Couture, as well as Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Giorgio Armani. He photographed the Pirelli calendar three times: 2005 (in Brazil), 2008 (China) and 2014 (the last time to mark the calendar’s 50th anniversary in collaboration with photographer Peter Lindbergh and – again – with numerous supermodels).

In 2018, as the fashion world grappled with her history of sexual harassment and abuse of power, Mr. Demarchelier was the subject of an article in The Boston Globe in which numerous models claimed unwanted advances. He denied the allegations, but his relationship with Condé Nast was ended.

In 2007, the French Ministry of Culture made him officier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres and the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave him its Founder’s Award. In 2008 he appeared in the first Sex and the City film as himself and photographed Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw in wedding dresses for Vogue. The next year, the Petit Palais presented a retrospective of his work entitled The Cult of Personality.

“I like to photograph the positive way of life,” Mr Demarchelier told The Times in 2016. “I like the beauty, the beauty inside.”

He is survived by his wife Mia; three sons; and three grandchildren. Patrick Demarchelier, fashion photographer, dies aged 78

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