The artistry of fashion photography is better seen than described, as evidenced through the just-up joint exhibition of Patrick Demarchelier and his son Victor.
On view through April 1 at the Staley-Wise gallery in New York, the show highlights how a distinguishable style translates from one generation to the next. The assortment of art, editorial and portrait photography magnifies the high style of the father-and-son creatives and has an added poignancy following the elder Demarchelier’s death last year. For 40-plus years, his images appeared in such magazines as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. His son, Victor, has followed a similar route successfully, shooting for fashion magazines and clients like Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren and Lancôme.
Referring to the Staley-Wise show, Victor Demarchelier said he loved the symmetry of the images that amplify a sense of beauty. To that point, a 2012 photograph of the model Heloise Guerin wearing a mammoth black tousled wig that he took for Harper’s Bazaar appears to mirror one of Christy Turlington with a similarly oversized white rose-like head piece that his father took in 1996.
Having “learned everything from his father,” Victor Demarchelier said, “he was the only teacher that I ever had for photography really. It’s more than photography too. Growing up together, you have the same aesthetic. First, it’s your family and then your whole surroundings. It’s more [about] your taste. Everything is shaped by your parents and your family.”
Straight out of studying art and economics at Vassar College, the younger Demarchelier determined after one year of working in his father’s studio that photography would be the job for him. Just as Patrick Demarchelier was known to be meticulous in his techniques, his son said he was quick to take to the darkroom and “really loved” working with his hands and making prints. Celebrity portraiture is another medium that the Demarcheliers thrive in. The show features images of Princess Diana, Leonardo DiCaprio and Anthony Hopkins, among others.
As for Patrick Demarchelier’s vast archives, those are still being sorted through. Victor Demarchelier has also been involved with curating two upcoming solo exhibitions of his father’s work. A book spotlighting Patrick Demarchelier’s work is being developed with the aim to publish next year. Needless to say, constantly leafing through his father’s pictures continues to influence Victor Demarchelier.
An artist with many gifts, Patrick Demarchelier’s greatest one was his “joy for life,” his son said. “He loved traveling and meeting people. He loved spending behind the camera getting to meet people.”
Victor Demarchelier will soon be off to St. Barts with his model wife Heloise Guerin for a shoot for Doen, a California brand that the couple started working with during the pandemic, starting out by doing home shoots, which was a change of pace. “We started doing it during COVID[-19] and we learned to love it. It’s a very intimate approach, when it’s just you and your wife. Of course, we do regular shoots with the team now. But occasionally we have the home shoots, which is a great experience.”
Visitors to Staley-Wise are greeted at the entrance to the exhibition with an image of Guerin that her husband shot for Harper’s Bazaar. Not surprisingly, that image is a personal favorite of the photographer’s, as is one of his own images of colorful candy from the “Artificial Color” series, and his father’s portrait of an arms-crossed Christy Turlington with a white mouse on one shoulder. From a fine art perspective, Victor Demarchelier enjoys doing still lifes, whereas his father was not as keen on that genre. When it comes to fashion, though, they are “quite similar in the portraiture,” his son said.
Understandably, Victor Demarchelier said there “definitely was a void” at the Feb. 9 opening night party at Staley-Wise. “When you’re doing a joint show and one person is not there, you’re definitely thinking how they would feel and how they would like it. It wasn’t the first time that we had sone a joint show. We had spoken about it many times, but they are all different too. It would have been nice obviously to have him there,” he said.