Patrick Demarchelier, Once Princess Diana's Personal Photographer, Dead at 78

Famed fashion portrait photographer Patrick Demarchelier has snapped pictures of some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna

Photographer Patrick Demarchelier
Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty

Patrick Demarchelier, the famed fashion portrait photographer who once worked as Princess Diana's personal shutterbug, died on Thursday at the age of 78.

Representatives for the French-born artist announced his death on Instagram with "great sadness."

"He is survived by his wife Mia, his three sons Gustaf, Arthur, Victor and three grandchildren," they wrote.

Demarchelier's cause of death has not been revealed, though multiple outlets, including WWD, report he was in St. Barths at the time of his passing.

His career first began in Paris, where he moved from Le Havre at the age of 20.

He was self-taught. "I didn't think about a career. I didn't plan it. It came to me," he told Vogue in a 2015 interview, explaining that he received his first camera as a teenager from his step-father, and started by shooting weddings and passport photos.

After working as an assistant photographer under prized lensmen like Vogue contributor Hans Feurer and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Demarchelier honed his skills as a fashion photographer before moving to the United States in 1975 and opening his first U.S. studio.

It didn't take long for him to find fame, his work appearing in major fashion magazines worldwide. Among his employers through the years were Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair and Allure. He also shot campaigns for brands like Chanel, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Target, Dior, Revlon, Lancôme, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Gap, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Yves Saint Laurent and more.

Celebrity subjects ran the gamut across the entertainment industry: Madonna, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Britney Spears, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kaley Cuoco, Oprah, Beyoncé, Lupita Nyong'o, Robert DeNiro, Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, Paul Newman, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Anthony Hopkins, Annette Bening, Nicki Minaj, Amber Heard, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Sally Field, Susan Sarandon, Iman, Dove Cameron, Charlize Theron, Gena Rowlands, and RuPaul — to name a few!

"I am grateful to have been lucky enough to be in front of your lens," remembered Bella Hadid on Thursday, in a touching Instagram post. "Most gentle, most legendary, soft but full of life. You will be missed Patrick. Rest In Peace."

One of his most recognizable photographs? Janet Jackson's infamous topless 1993 Rolling Stone cover.

Years earlier, in 1989, Demarchelier's work cause the eye of Princess Diana, who hired him as her personal photographer. He made history as the first non-British photographer ever to be hired by the royal family. His portraits of her are considered iconic among royal enthusiasts.

"I like the beauty of life, the beauty of people, animals, everything," he told WWD in 2007, describing himself as an "instinctual photographer" and explaining that "a good picture is a moment, you catch the moment."

Harper’s Bazaar UK/ Patrick Demarchelier
Harper’s Bazaar UK/ Patrick Demarchelier

Demarchelier's success drove him from behind the camera into the spotlight from time to time. He was featured on the 2003 season of America's Next Top Model, appeared in the 2009 Vogue documentary The September Issue, and even photographed Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw in the 2008 Sex and the City film.

He was famously name-checked by Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly, in the 2006 beloved comedy The Devil Wears Prada.

Numerous fashion honors followed Demarchelier throughout his career, including the CFDA Founder's Award in Honor of Eleanor Lambert and the French Ministry of Culture's prestigious officier dans l'ordre des arts et des lettres title (both in 2007). He also published a few books.

But his name was also touched by controversy in 2018, when the Boston Globe's acclaimed Spotlight team surfaced sexual misconduct allegations against 25 industry professionals, Demarchelier listed among them. In response, Condé Nast severed ties with him.

"People lie and they tell stories," he told the Globe at the time, denying the allegations and any wrongdoing. "It's ridiculous."

He never stopped shooting professionally, explaining once, "I will die working," WWD reported.

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