Careers sometimes start on the beach.
It was at Le Suquet in Cannes that I met Patrick Demarchelier.
It was during the school holidays in the 1960s. He must have been 16-17, I was 15-16. He wasn’t really interested in me but in my father who that summer was giving a series of lectures on photography at the Palais du Festival de Cannes. Patrick never missed one and harassed him with questions: “Sir, how do we do this, how do we do that?”
My father was annoyed and he said to me one day: “Your boyfriend is very nice but he’s starting to bother me with all his questions!” So it was a brief encounter.
But a few years later, we found ourselves on the Champs Elysées, me starting at ELLE Club, him right next door at Publicis where he was testing his vocation on photographic prints from the famous advertising agency’s lab. End of the sequence. But Patrick didn’t give up. This is how I saw him reappear at ELLE’s Photo Department where I had finally found my place in the legendary Lazareff press group.
Tall, seductive in his grand reporter style trench coat, his black hair casually messy, he presented me with superb black and white prints. Portraits of African women with – it struck me – a bone in their nose! “It’s beautiful but what do you want me to do with it Patrick? It’s not for us.” And hop he left, his photos under his arm without being discouraged.
Having been noticed by Hélène Lazareff, founder of ELLE, I went up to the 5th floor of 100 rue Réaumur, the noble floor of the newspaper to become a journalist for the Beauty department. For my reportages, I had ideas but no photographer.
Peter Knapp, then Artistic Director of the newspaper, was more concerned with the fashion pages of ELLE than with those of Beauty.
“I don’t have a photographer to give you, find one.” Never mind, I called Patrick. Our duo lasted for months, years.
We were very active. In the beginning, all the young beginners from the modeling agencies paraded in front of Patrick’s lens. As the so-called technical costs were not reimbursed by the newspaper, Patrick not yet famous, a little broke, saved the “pelloches” of Ektachrome 24×36. With his Nikon, equipped with a 50 mm, he shot less than 10 views per girl and said to me: “It’s good, we have it!” And we had it. The debutante then found herself full page in ELLE and even better on the cover! It was a hit. He had an exceptional gift for capturing beauty, playing with light and communicating with his subject whether she was anonymous or famous like Dominique Sanda, Jackie Bisset, stars of the 70s. But it was inevitable, one day he said to me: “My book is quite good and solid, I’m trying the American adventure.” But Patrick you don’t even speak English.” Whatever, he knew that with his Frenchy look and his book he was going to succeed and so did I.
Good bye Patrick. I keep a beautiful album of memories of you and also this lens, this 50mm that you gave me before you left for America, the one with which you captured so much beauty, that of our friendship.
Your talent will forever remain on glossy paper for eternity.
Caroline Van de Velde
Former Beauty Editor of ELLE
Former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE TopModel