Gerald and I met when I was 23 and he was 65. He was a small French man with bright blue eyes, a wonderfully devious laugh and the soul of an artist.
The first night we met I was cooking lentils with butter and shallots and he began telling me why the gallery show he'd come from was boring. I spoke some French, he made me laugh and we liked each other immediately. He was born on the same day as my brother (a big hearted libra) in the Chinese year of the dragon, one year younger than my father. I in turn was one year older than his daughter, and so he loved to joke about how age appropriate he was for me and I would inevitably laugh and ask him where he'd been all my life. He was an extraordinary photographer but unlike his brother, Patrick Demarchelier, the renown fashion photographer, Gerald approached his work without artifice or stage. It was unapologetically raw and full of mystery. He could turn the mundane into something utterly poetic and heartbreaking; a glass on a windowsill felt lonesome, a sailboat in the ocean expressed a wanting. His figures often ghostly and human at the same time. He shot on a Polaroid camera that looked to be older than he was and carried an invariably leaky container of murky water around with him to store the negatives.
He introduced me to my first oyster at Balthazar and the deep red wine of Cahors. He loved chocolate. We would stay up until the wee hours of the morning talking and smoking and stealing the light of street lamps for adventurous photographs. We found artistic companions in each other. I remember the calm feeling that washed over me as soon as we were in the same room.
I met him once in Paris and attended a show of his brother's at the Grand Palais where we stood and chatted with Anna Wintour. When she walked away I asked who she was and he laughed his wonderful laugh and squeezed me and said in his French accent, she's a bitch but she looked great, no? He introduced me to worlds I'd never known. He had a graceful heart and a generous spirit. He persevered through life's storms and like a cat, he landed over and over again on his feet.
He lived. He said hello to strangers. He was kind, mischievous, romantic, and forgiving. He loved his children. He told me never to get married but if I did to always have my own room. He never put his jam in the refrigerator. He smoked Marlborough reds.
He shot this picture of me many years ago on a rooftop in Brooklyn. I remember taking off my clothes in the middle of the day with the sun shining and feeling so free. He gave me that. I loved him and my heart breaks today.
Now sweet man, you are free too.
Tu vas manquer mon dragon. C'est trop triste de dire au revoir. Je t'aime. Je vous remercie. Tu as changé ma vie. Vas en paix mon ami.
Zoë, ton petit singe