Reminiscences: Patrick Demarchelier – Photographer
The wealth of your photographic experience has led you to work in many fields : fashion (with hundreds of magazine covers to your credit), beauty, publicity campaigns, portraits of personalities… we could talk about the “Demarchelier touch”. What does this mean to you?
I could summarize this by the word optimism. When I am shooting, my approach is to first put people at ease. Fashion models and celebrities feel this attitude, because the contact is immediate, relaxed, calm, and I feel that this is beneficial to the final result. This is how I see things. I like to put people in their best light. I do not try to exploit the slightest flaw. You could call this the simplicity of happy people.
In 2008, Paris’s Petit Palais devoted a major exhibition to you, placing 400 of your photos in perspective with the works of the museum. What did such an experience, rather unusual in the life of a photographer, inspire for you?
For me, this exhibition was an honor, if not a consecration, above all because it took place in my own country, France. It was a true joy for me to see my photos in the company of great paintings. The collection of the Petit Palais is remarkable. I am a collector of contemporary art and am particularly fond of paintings. You have lived in New York for more than thirty years.
What do you appreciate about Paris when you come back to visit?
I love France and particularly Paris. When I am here, I feel the rhythm and the atmosphere of the city, which is, of course, very different from that of New York. Generally, I am very busy with my work, but, as a fan of fashion, I like attending fashion shows, I dine out with friends, often at Le Duc, an excellent fish restaurant on Avenue Raspail, I go to art
exhibitions, and stroll on the quays to explore the treasures of the book stalls along the Seine. Last March during the presentation of the collections, I saw “Une Journée Ordinaire”, the play so brilliantly interpreted by Alain Delon and his daughter Anouchka at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens. I often stroll on the Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where I stop at Lipp or Flore, or peruse the shelves of the bookstore La Hune at the corner of the Rue Saint-Benoît. It is one of my favorite places, along with the Tome Dom bookstore on rue Saint-Dominique.
What memories do you have of your first contact with the Avenue Montaigne, and what were the circumstances?
As a young photographer, this avenue, at that time not yet graced with all of the luxury boutiques that it boasts today, made me dream. The sumptuous buildings with their
creamy facades of Parisian stone and gates of black wrought iron – this elegance fascinated me, just as the signs on the facades of the great couture houses impressed me. Later I came to the Avenue Montaigne for professional reasons when I was asked to photograph fashion shoots at the Plaza Athénée, Dior, or Vuitton…. They were numerous and fascinating. In addition, I have accompanied my wife during her shopping. Personally, I am not an expert on the subject, but I like to give my opinion, when asked. And now, I have my own routine on the Avenue Montaigne. I like dining at Stresa, a superb gastronomic Italian restaurant on rue Chambiges, just behind the Avenue. I also enjoy Alain Ducasse’s cuisine at the Plaza Athénée. And occasionally, I stop for a drink at the splendid contemporary bar of this palace.
On June 4th, 2007, the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) gave you the “Eleanor Lambert Award” for the ensemble of your career and your “unique contribution to the world of fashion”. A few months later, you were named Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris. Looking back, what would you say is your contribution to the world of photography?
The reflection of an era.
You have said that everything inspires you, “art, nature, people, the street.” What would you say about the Avenue Montaigne as a source of inspiration?
The images that come to mind are elegance, beauty, luxury, of course, but also a certain kind of simplicity and sobriety. And also certain silhouettes that one can observe here, men and women of all ages. It is a living painting, perpetually changing that feeds the eye and the imagination.
What’s your news for coming months?
I have just finished a book for Maison Dior Couture to be published in December, but I can not say more about this for the moment.