Patrick Demarchelier 1992-2017 Exhibition of His Works

The idea is always the same: Let people be themselves. You don’t want them to pose, or be self-conscious. The accident is the best picture – the one you’re not expecting.” – Patrick Demarchelier

When you think great fashion photographers of the past 40 years, Patrick Demarchelier’s game is not only strong but ongoing. The 74-year-old Demarchelier is the subject of a current exhibition at Staley-Wise Gallery featuring his more recent works from 1992-2017 (through April 21), 19 of which have never before been seen. Prices range from $800 for the smaller pieces to $36,700 — all are signed by the photographer.

Gisele Bündchen 2002

I attended Thursday’s opening reception which turned out to be a Demarchelier family affair — all eyes, including doting grand-père’s, were on baby granddaughter Alice (pronounced the French way it sounds more like “Elise”) as she innocently held court from her pram, sans a cry or a whimper — I had to make sure she was a real baby and not a doll!

Patrick Demarchelier & Debbie Dickinson
Photo: Laurel Marcus

On an evening when a million things were happening — I believe there’s something called New York Fashion Week — the exhibition still garnered attention as a well heeled crowd including socialites such as Carolyne Roehm,  models such as Debbie Dickinson, industry types and others who came to pay homage to the lensman and take in the sights.

The crowd at the gallery

I had never met Demarchelier who at first appeared unassuming and shy but once he warmed up exuded bonhomie; at one point even asking how a few of us ladies gathered against the wall were doing as he passed by.

Christian Dior Sonnet Dress, Autumn/Winter 1952 Haute Couture Collection. 2013

Whenever I hear the name Patrick Demarchelier I revisit the many iconic and aspirational editorial pages of my youth. The girls whose names I knew in those glossy mags teasing me to come to the fashion capital of New York and work in the industry– I remember being equally fascinated with his advertising campaigns — they too had the mystique of art.  Let’s face it — you know he’s been memorialized indelibly in pop culture when Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly commands her assistant in The Devil Wears Prada to “Get me Demarchelier.” Who could forget SJP’s Carrie Bradshaw’s couture bridal photo shoot with the man himself, in the Sex and the City movie?

Group of famous personalities photographed by Patrick
Click image to get full size view

This exhibition combines both portraiture and fashion, each with the unmistakable technique, innovation and imagination that elevates Demarchelier’s work and has kept him at the forefront of his craft. The Le Havre, France native worked his way up starting in the darkroom, then as a photography assistant and eventually on his own. Discovered by Alexander Liberman in 1974 he was tapped for American Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. He has published books, exhibited his works in galleries and museums worldwide including a 2008 exhibition at the esteemed Petit Palais art museum in Paris.

Mariacarla Boscono & Anja Rubik, Vogue Italia, 2008

Actress/Model/PR Expert Debbie Dickinson, who posed often in swimsuits, (sometimes with her sister Janice), for many of the great fashion photographers of the ’70s and ’80s, recalled one such shoot in which she and another model posed for Patrick. “We were on a cliff in Jamaica overlooking the water. I grew up in Florida so I understand the ocean. I can tell from the sound when a wave is coming in,” — she explained how she was able to jump just at the right moment to avoid getting dunked. “Patrick got the perfect shot where my dress went up and all you saw was leg,” she added. Unfortunately the other model was not able to do the grand jeté on cue– “all I heard was ‘aggghhhh’– an anguished scream as she went under.”

Grace Hartzel, New York, Vogue, “Stay Golden” 2016

Perhaps not exactly the sort of “accident that makes the best picture” but certainly good for a blooper reel.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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