Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier, known for his iconic photos of some of the 20th century’s most glamorous women, died Thursday aged 78, according to a statement on his official Instagram account. The cause of death was not specified.
In a statement to CNN, the New York City Staley-Wise Gallery, which represents Demarchelier’s work, described him as “a brilliant photographer with an extraordinary sense of classic and elegant style – certainly the best of his generation.” Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based Fahey / Klein Gallery said in an email that he would “miss him,” adding that he “demystified the fashion world and created images that resonate with natural beauty.”
He left behind a wife, Mia, three sons and three grandchildren.
One of the most famous photos of Princess Diana by Patrick Demarchelier at the exhibition in London in 2016. Source: Ray Tang / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Although Demarchelier became best known as Princess Diana’s personal photographer and took famous portraits, he spent his early life in the tranquil port city of Le Havre. Born there in 1943, during the German occupation of France, he moved to Paris at the age of 20 and worked with the famous Swiss fashion photographer Hans Feurer and the pioneer of street photography Henri Cartier-Bresson, although he always considered himself self-taught.
“I have no formal qualifications, just a school of life,” he said in 2003, following a Vogue profile. “The most I learned was just taking pictures; a lot of photos”.
After becoming a fashion photographer and working for publications such as American Vogue, Demarchelier moved to New York City in 1975. both.
He joined Harper’s Bazaar as Principal Photographer before establishing a long-term relationship with Vogue in the late 1980s and 1990s. In between these two titles, he captured famous shots of the greatest names of the decades – Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington, just to name a few – helping to shape the aesthetics guided by the supermodels of the era.
Christy Turlington, photo taken by Patrick Demarchelier in New York in 1990. Source: Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery, New York
Demarchelier has also shot campaigns for almost every major fashion house, including American giants such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, among others, as well as European maisons such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. He belonged to an elite group of photographers hired to shoot the prestigious Pirelli Calendar many times – in 2005, 2008 and 2014, the latter in collaboration with Peter Lindbergh.
However, his reputation for glamorous but intimate portraits has gone beyond fashion. During the six decades of his career, Demarchelier has worked with characters 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 made history by becoming Princess Diana’s personal photographer – the first non-British to assume such a role for the British royal family – in 1989. He then took some of the deceased’s most iconic photos, including the famous black and white photo of her in a white gown and tiara, as well as the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar that made her a global fashion icon.
Demarchelier pictured at the 1996 Elite Model Look Modeling Competition. Source: Bruno Bachelet / Paris Match / Getty Images
“We became friends,” Diana told the British newspaper Telegraph in 2008, more than a decade after her death. “She was funny and nice – but basically she was a very simple woman who liked very simple things.” In 2007, Demarchelier was awarded the French Order of Arts and Letters. And he continued to collaborate with major fashion titles back in the 1970s (“I’ll die working,” he once said, according to Women’s Wear Daily), photographing a new generation of celebrities including Aduta Akecha and Gigi Hadid. But his reputation was significantly tarnished by allegations of sexual abuse in his later years. In 2018, he was among several high-profile figures in the fashion industry who were implicated in a Boston Globe investigation, which reported that seven people – including several models and a former assistant – had anonymously accused him of misconduct. He denied the allegations, telling the newspaper that “people lie and tell stories” and that “never, never, never” inappropriately touched the model. Condé Nast, Vogue’s parent company, severed ties with Demarcheler after the allegations, although the fashion title did pay tribute to his death. An obituary posted on Thursday’s website noted the photographer’s “rich and deep heritage” and his ability to “balance elegance and natural ease” in his work.
Demarchelier’s photo from Christian Dior’s Haute Couture 2010 Fall / Winter 2010 campaign. Source: Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery, New York
Other tributes also poured in from around the fashion world, and among those who pay tribute to the deceased photographer were some top models. Posting the cover of Vogue China 2017 filmed by Demarchelier, Bella Hadid wrote on Instagram: “I am grateful to be lucky to be in front of your camera. The most delicate, the most legendary, soft, but full of life. Will miss you Patrick Crawford in the meantime published a gallery of photos taken by her photographer, with the caption: “Thank you for so many great memories and beautiful, timeless photos.”