Off to work with the award-winning young London-based designer
On why photography is not a young man’s game
In an industry where you’re only as good as your last shoot, Patrick has remained a master of his craft while successive generations of photographers have come and gone. Over tuna tarta and truffle pizza in Soho, Manhattan, he looks back at his long and distinguished carrer in light of significant shifts within the fashion industry. As the afternoon progresses, the conversation turns to why modelling agencies are killing their own business, and how his beginnings were not quite as easy as one might think.
Photographed by Victor Demarchelier
Written by Jens Grede
Harvey Weinstein walks up to our table, puts his arm around Patrick and bursts out, ‘This guy is living the dream.’ It has just gone midday and we are huddled around a table in the lobby of the Mercer. Heidi Klum, Kyle McLachlan and now Harvey. He is the last of a succession, coming up to us, paying their respects to the
bon vivant sitting with me.
Patrick Demarchelier is a French New Yorker and one of only a handful of photographers living today who has found mainstream fame. In a world where a success is defined by what you do today, Patrick has stayed on top for nearly four decades by producing consistently great work and keeping a contagiously positive attitude. Careers are about longevity and we have come to New York to learn from the master.
Tucking into a collective order of tuna tartar and double servings of truffle pizza, we get talking, embarking on a conversation that will encompass photography, supermodels and fatherhood.
So, what prompted the gift from your father of a camera when you were 17? Had you expressed any interest in photography before you got it?
‘No, not at all. I think the reason he gave it to me was because he saw me like a troubled kid. I was not good in school. He didn’t know what to do, he was worried. My parents hadn’t given me many presents in my life. He found this very old Kodak camera somewhere and he gave it to me; it was just luck, it was the best present in my life.’
It worked out pretty well.
‘Yes, because the thing is, I was actually a little bit of a troubled kid. Well, not troubled… but I didn’t do much. This camera was my first discovery. I grew up in the countryside, in Le Havre, Normandy. It was a bit of a boring town. There was nothing to do. So, I went with this camera to the local photo shop to learn how to print and develop film. I started retouching negatives with a pencil. After that, I started taking pictures of my friends. They were conscious of their pimples, so I started retouching the pimples in the prints. It was fantastic – it was the first time in my life I started to make some money and I loved pictures.’
How old were you when you moved to Paris and became an assistant?
‘Maybe 18 or 19. I didn’t assist very long. To begin with, I wasn’t an assistant. I worked in a photo lab for six months. Maybe a year or so later, I went to print for a press agency. I was doing something like 200 prints a day for magazines. I assisted the photographer Gerard, who was with the magazine Cinémonde which doesn’t exist any more. I printed for him and assisted him on everything for maybe eight months until he ran out of money and filed for bankruptcy. So, I left and worked for myself. I had some small clients and I ended up coming back to assisting the photographer Hans Feurer.’
That must have been around 1968? What was it like working or Hans – he was working for Nova at the time, right?
‘He was a very nice guy, a fantastic guy.’
Was that your introduction to the fashion world?
‘Before Hans Feurer, I had no idea about fashion. I was just a guy from the countryside and Paris was like another world to me, another planet. When the first photographer I assisted went bankrupt and was forced to fire me, he gave me a list of people to see in Paris. First on the list was Anna Christie – a modelling school, which looked fun. So, I went to see the school and they had a vacancy there for me to develop pictures. It’s like a movie because they had a staff photographer who was very old, with one wooden leg. So, the “pretty girl” agency saw me and gave me a job. They wanted someone young to talk to the girls. So, I was a professeur (laughs), a teacher at this school for girls who wanted to become models, girls from the countryside, like me, who came to Paris to learn how to do their hair and make-up and to shave their hair. (Laughs) My job was to create books for these girls. I had a small studio and I would test all these girls and make them a portfolio.’
The next generation media entrepreneur who caters to the passionate few
The three irregular titles created by one – man publishing phenomenon Luis Venegas – Fanzine137, Electric Youth! and Candy – have niche appeal and are hard to find. Yet some of the biggest names in fashion are keen to get involved. Could these magazines provide a template for the survival of print?
Photographed by: Olivier Zahm
Written by: Murray Healy
Luis Venegas arrived back from the airport a matter of hours ago and is now in his Madrid apartment rummaging through his luggage. He wants to show me something in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, which he picked up in New York the day before and is now fishing out of a holdall. Pausing briefly to enthuse over the cast of Glee on the cover (‘Do you watch that show? I love it!’), he turns to a double-page ad that features a portrait of Olympic champion Michael Phelps adjusting his goggles. The accompanying headline reads: ‘We surf the internet, we swim in magazines.’ Created by five of the biggest magazine publishers in the US, it makes a clear and impassioned case for the continued relevance of print.
The boldness with which the advert confronts the much-mooted death of old-fashioned ink on paper took Luis by surprise. ‘I was like, “Wow, finally a reaction from printed magazines to internet media.” I love the internet – I look at loads of things on there just like everybody else. But I don’t think this means the end of magazines, especially not for me, with this strategy of making limited editions that do not come out every month.’
Luis has built up a small but influential publishing empire with his niche, beautifully crafted and irregularly published magazines: their scarcity sits in direction proportion to the devotion they inspire in their readers. First there was Fanzine137, a magazine whose diverse contents (from Ryan McGinley to Julio Iglesias, from to Grace Coddington to Wim Wenders – and, every issue, Barbra Streisand) are united by nothing more than the fact that Luis is obsessed with them. That same passion for his own fixations inspired the labours of love that followed: first Electric Youth!, a large-format portfolio of boys in pants splashed with banner headlines and interviews that document the minutiae of its subjects’ lives; and then Candy, a magazine devoted to trans and androgynous aesthetics, full of boys who look like girls and girls who look like boys.
His magazines break all the rules of conventional magazine publishing: know your audience, make yourself accessible, keep increasing your readership, hit the newsstand regularly and on time, expand your brand. To take on those points in order: Luis has never known who his readers are, as his magazines are personal projects that he makes for his own satisfaction. They are also hard to find, as the print run for each title is severely restricted – 1,000 for both Candy and EY!, and 1,137 for Fanzine137 – and even though demand outstrips supply and printing more would dramatically increase his income, he has no plans to do so. His publishing schedule is erratic: more than a year has passed since the last issue of Fanzine137, for example, as he will only hit the printers when he feels ready. And there’s no online version: his website, byluisvenegas.com, hosts a single-page taster for each magazine. And yet his titles are so cherished within the fashion industry that the likes of Bruce Weber and Steven Klein are happy to work for them for no other reason than the fact that they love what Luis does.
Mr Owens’ guide to sublime physicality
Rick Owens was once a chubby Californian kid dreaming of rock-hard washboard abs. But once he’d been nudged towards the gym to compensate for his excesses, he dramatically transformed his physique. Now he’s such an expert that we’ve asked him to show us how it’s done.
Photographed by: Kacper Kasprzyk
Written by: Murray Healy
Rick Owens discovered the joys of the gym relatively late in life. The desire to sort out his body had always been there, languishing in his heart, weak and neglected, since childhood. ‘As an introverted sissy growing up in a small town in California,’ he remembers, ‘all I wanted was Joe Dallesandro hair and washboard abs. But I wore “husky”-sized poly pants,’ he says, referring to the American boys’ trousers made with added ease on the waist and hips, ‘and I had big, soft, 13-year-old-girl nipples. And buck teeth.’
A couple of years in braces sorted out the teeth, but it wasn’t until his early thirties that he started picking up the weights, when his partner Michele Lamy persuaded him to do something to compensate for the excesses of his lifestyle. ‘Her reasoning was that if I was going to drink so much, I had to balance it out. After years of enjoying overindulgence, discipline felt even better.’ As his efforts slowly remodelled his physique, Rick soon found working out as addictive as life’s more obvious pleasures. ‘The changes were imperceptible from month to month, but after a year things had changed. By then I was hooked.’
A conversation between Jens Grede
and Jak & Jil’s Tommy Ton
As the internet gives the whole world access to the catwalk, fashion’s elite are increasingly in the spotlight. The success of The September Issue confirmed what we already knew: that Ann Wintour is a celebrity. The bloggers who chronicle their every move and every outfit have created a whole new tier of stardom. As Anna Dello Russo herself has said: “It’s about us, the people who work in fashion. What you wear, what you eat, when you sleep, when you wake up… It’s the new phenomenon”
Photographs by: Tommy Ton
Interview by: Jens Grede
Here we are at last… Do you know anything about Industrie?
‘I saw a cover on the blogs.’
It’s funny because that’s not the cover. I’ve seen it in at least 25 different places today. Everyone’s saying it’s an outtake, but it’s not. Basically, Patrick Demarchelier shot Daria and Lara for us and we used one of the pictures from that story on a document for advertisers. Someone must have picked it up and uploaded it thinking it was the right cover. So it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.
With Industrie, we’re trying to make a magazine that is 100 per cent dedicated to the people in the fashion industry rather than to fashion itself. We felt there was something missing, something that is manifest in your blog, Jak & Jil, and that is how fashion has become entertainment; how the editors of today have, through sites such as yours, become their own best cover stars. For me, this is fascinating. I’ve been in many conversations with people who are trying to find alternatives to having celebrities on their covers, who either want to go back to models or who are looking for the new thing. It’s like you found that new thing: you realised the influence of people like Emmanuelle Alt. Photographed for your blog, she becomes far greater than the pictures she styles. In the context of the democratisation of fashion and the speed at which information now flows, it seems like we suddenly began looking towards these people, whose style we could identify with, to provide us with a sign of authenticity.
‘It’s true. The way that they dress feels a little bit more accessible: they are the ones who best edit and filter all this chaos that that we see every six months or every day. With the old Hollywood stars, we would always want to emulate the way they looked, the way they wore their hair or make-up and the way they dressed. But today the way celebrities dress is just so manufactured. It was only a matter of time before the people who are responsible for all this imagery we’re seeing were put in the spotlight.’