French War Photographer Marie-Laure De Decker Dies At 75


French War Photographer Marie-Laure De Decker Dies At 75

She died in hospital on Saturday following a long illness, her family said.


Marie-Laure de Decker, the French model who stepped behind the camera to become an internationally recognised war photographer, has died at the age of 75, her family said Saturday.

She died in hospital on Saturday following a long illness, her family said.

Born in Algeria — when it was still a French colony — she started her career as a model before deciding to branch out into photography.

In the late 1960s, she took memorable shots of the artists Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp and the writer Philippe Soupault.

She covered the Vietnam War early in her career and met with success despite her relative lack of experience.

“I said to myself: people are going to see that I’m not a real photographer,” she wrote in a 1985 memoir. She only had an old Leica camera with her, she recalled.

“In fact, I realised afterwards, this old Leica was a marvel.”

She faced particular challenges working as a female war photographer, she said. “If you’re a woman, you’re never taken seriously.”

On the other hand, she added: “There is an advantage to being a woman, as was the case in South Africa — they don’t kill you right away, they give you a chance.”

Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat, current chair of the African Union Commission, paid tribute to her on Saturday, speaking of his “great sadness” at the news of her death.

Her images, he wrote on Twitter, “immortalised part of the history of Chad”.

– From war zones to celebrities –

De Decker spent much of her career at the Gamma photo agency, from 1971 until it closed down in 2009.

Their association ended on bad terms. When she asked to get her photos back, she only got the black-and-white shots and not the colour ones.

She lost a subsequent legal bid to recover them and have her copyright recognised for their digital versions of the photos.

De Decker is also known for her photos of celebrities such as actors Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Rampling, singer Serge Gainsbourg, Caroline of Monaco and France’s former president, Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

The money from those photos helped finance her missions in conflict zones, she said.

“When you take photos of the poor, no one’s interested. You have to take photos of the rich to sell (them).”

In 2013, her work in conflict zones was recognised by the Albert Kahn International Planet Prize.

She had two sons with lawyer Thierry Levy.


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