Black+White Photography

On Show – BW283

Patrick Demarchelier’s informal trend-busting style caught the eye of celebrities, magazine publishers and, at one time, even Princess Diana. Remarkably, the current show at Atlas Gallery is the first solo exhibition of his pictures in the UK. Tracy Calder reports.
Image: ©Christy, New York, 1990 © Patrick Demarchelier, Atlas Gallery

‘With a sweep of greying hair, worm eyebrows and a squinting grin, Mr Demarchelier was not above using his own Gallic charm – and a patented form of Franglais – to get a subject to do his bidding,’ suggested the New York Times in his obituary in 2022. Fashion and portrait photographer Patrick Demarchelier had a career lasting nearly six decades, which began on his 17th birthday when he was gifted a camera by his stepfather. His first subjects were portraits and weddings, but he soon progressed to printing and retouching passport pictures in a small town in northern France.

At this point, his sole aim was to make it to Paris, which he gamely did in 1963 at the age of 20. Here, Demarchelier eventually found work with photographer Hans Feurer, a contributor to Vogue magazine. By the late 1960s, inspired by the likes of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, he joined a group of young photographers known as the Paris Mob. These artists created work in direct contrast to the serious fashion photography of the time, preferring pictures that were more upbeat and informal. According to the Guardian, ‘They preferred street snaps to studio shots, and unexotic young models sans sulks, visibly having a good time in places magazine readers could understand – a sunny beach, a market’. In his own words, he was looking for ‘expression, emotion, something alive’.


Read more about Patrick Demarchelier’s legacy in issue BW283 of B+W.

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