Nothing Is Real, not even Real
May 8, 2008 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Patrick Dangin on the work of a photo retoucher. Make no mistake about it: in this age, even Real Beauty is fake.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (49 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Would it have killed the New Yorker to run one or two photos after the lead? It is an article about photographs after all. Otherwise an interesting find.
posted by GuyZero at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who would let their photos be used as an example? Remember the Jezebel Faith Hill cover? That was a huge embarrassment for the magazine, which is why Jezebel had to put out the open offer of $10k for an un-retouched cover in the first place.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:46 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Styledash article (linked to "fake") is basically a bunch of speculation since they couldn't reach Dove or the supposed retoucher but ran the story anyway.

I dunno. I certainly didn't expect the photos to have been run without any polishing. I think this is making a mountain of a mole-hill.
posted by loiseau at 4:53 PM on May 8, 2008


In the print magazine, there was a nice before and after nude study. Quite a difference. Maybe too racy for the New Yorker web site(?)
posted by DarkForest at 4:55 PM on May 8, 2008


So when even disease and crime have been fetishized, when the musings of Naomi Wolf and Hugh Hefner aren’t really points of view per se, but competing brands; I’m supposed to be dismayed that another marketing scheme has fallen short of some lofty reality, and that every doubt will be quelled by changing the channel.

I fail to care anymore. Something that prone to influence probably never had much substance anyway.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd be ticked if the campaign actually was touched up, but your two links are the same references to the New Yorker quote which sounds more gossipy then anything else. Show me some checks from Dove, and show me some before or after or something, otherwise you're just a drama queen saying look at meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
posted by cavalier at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2008


Ahem.. and I'm talking to the photo guy in that second line, and you in the first, I'm on a roll lately with my grammar and communication skilz!
posted by cavalier at 4:59 PM on May 8, 2008


Advertising isn't 100% true?
Oh.My.God.
posted by signal at 5:56 PM on May 8, 2008


The after picture in the magazine article isn't as good or interesting as the before picture. We're going away from photography and toward a kind of airbrushed cartoon-illustration esthetic--has anyone looked carefully at any magazine covers lately? Those people are scary-looking after the Photoshop is finished with them.
posted by Peach at 6:02 PM on May 8, 2008


I can't wait for the next, shocking exposé on how Coke isn't really 'it', or on how I'm not actually lovin' McDonalds.
posted by signal at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


and the arms. so skinny the arms. with no joints at the elbow. it's weird.
posted by eustatic at 6:15 PM on May 8, 2008


I wouldn't be surprised, or even consider it any sort of scandal, if the dove pics were retouched to remove obviously distracting blemishes, stray hairs, or the unnatural effects caused by studio lighting, such as overly defined facial lines. I do some retouching in the portraits I take, but, it does not substantially change what the person looks like. If you happen to have a pimple on your face at the time of the photo, I'll take it out, because that is not how you normally look. No sense in immortalizing a temporary blemish.

The Faith Hill cover actually made me gasp a little. She is plenty attractive, but I guess they wanted perfection. It's one thing to soften harsh lines and clean things up a bit, but it's another to obliterate any sign of age. Or reality.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:28 PM on May 8, 2008


Those dove campaigns always rubbed me the wrong way. How dare a company position itself as a purveyor of holistic natural healthy beauty when it is in the same corporate family as AXE body spray. It's nothing more than a marketing strategy.
posted by jlowen at 6:37 PM on May 8, 2008


If you happen to have a pimple on your face at the time of the photo, I'll take it out, because that is not how you normally look.

Except...if you have a pimple on your face, then it's kinda likely that you normally have pimples occasionally. Which is how you normally look.

The photoshop efforts I like the best are the ones where they try to make a fake celebrity couple on the front page of gossip magazines. Take a stock photo of Celebrity 1 with soft light coming from the left, take a grainy papparazi flash photograph of Celebrity 2 and paste it on top, declare them to be a couple!
posted by Jimbob at 6:45 PM on May 8, 2008


When I asked Dangin if the steroidal advantage that retouching gives to celebrities was unfair to ordinary people, he admitted that he was complicit in perpetuating unrealistic images of the human body, but said, “I’m just giving the supply to the demand.” (Fashion advertisements are not public-service announcements.)

Well, that bit was right. They're actually public disservice announcements.

(hm, i quite like that phrase. i might get some stickers printed up - all official looking - to stick onto obnoxious retouched poster ads: "This has been a Public Disservice Announcement")
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:51 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is my surprised face.

But with fewer lines, and stronger looking cheekbones.
posted by pompomtom at 7:01 PM on May 8, 2008


(pptom---have you lost weight? 'Cuz you look gerrrreat!!!)
posted by Dizzy at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2008


You think a company is going to put serious money and effort into an ad campaign and not ensure that the ads look their best?
posted by ODiV at 7:54 PM on May 8, 2008


I can't wait for the next, shocking exposé on how Coke isn't really 'it', or on how I'm not actually lovin' McDonalds.

Advertising isn't 100% true?
Oh.My.God.


Okay the cynical/jaded/sarcastic thing here and in other post threads is getting old. Bully for you for not being taken in/being shocked/being beyond outraged/etc. Now could we perhaps talk about some other aspect of the story?

And for the wisenheimer who's going to make a crack about the 'is getting old' remark above and mentioning something about it needing to be Photoshopped, fuhgeddabout.
posted by Zinger at 7:57 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


as someone who has had to do this sort of thing from time to time, I want to know so much more about his techniques. He must have so many secrets. There are way too many crap photoshop books out there and this guy sounds like the real deal.
posted by Brainy at 8:14 PM on May 8, 2008


There are days when I wake up, look in the mirror, and get tired just thinking about doing my hair and makeup. It's exhausting after... what? 8,472 days of trying to look pretty? Minus some Sundays and sick days?

I need Photoshop in real life, methinks.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:20 PM on May 8, 2008


Oliver Cromwell, anyone?
posted by concreteforest at 8:56 PM on May 8, 2008


BTW, the retoucher's name is Pascal Dangin.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:50 PM on May 8, 2008


I started out with a neutral view of Dangin, but in another article I came across this quote from him:

"Basically we're selling a product - we're selling an image. To those who say too much retouching, I say you are bogus. This is the world that we're living in. Everything is glorified. I say live in your time.''

That's just so haughty, condescending, dismissive and devoid of either logic or substance... I feel like sticking poor Faith Hill's horrifying fake alien arm up his ass and spinning him around until his bogus locater is re-calibrated.

, by the way. This is the guy who takes it upon himself to school us about our world and how we ought to live in it? Dude, step away from the scarf and get back under the bridge.
posted by
taz at 11:21 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


To those who say too much retouching, I say you are bogus. This is the world that we're living in. Everything is glorified. I say live in your time.

So, goodbye. Please stay with your own kind, and I'll stay with mine.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:48 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


FuzzySkinner: "I do some retouching in the portraits I take, but, it does not substantially change what the person looks like."

you should read the article or meet a box representative some day. we are talking about removed mudflaps and lengthened necks here, not some simple spot removal and pigment adjustments.

I remember working as a creative for a large new york ad agency when this campaign broke and we all couldn't stop discussing this campaign. it was so obviously high-production-value-type stuff (and done, as the OP pointed out, by a fairly big name in the business) that few ever entertained the thought it hadn't been retouched to death. the amazing thing was that women were actually buying that these models were "real" and "natural" and all that. I mean... that's a bit like britney's old shtick about being a virgin and saving herself for marriage.
posted by krautland at 4:41 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


taz This is the guy who takes it upon himself to school us about our world and how we ought to live in it?
what a terribly judgemental, incosiderable and frankly stupid comment. are you advocating only those of a certain beauty are supposed to do certain jobs? what kind of job would someone looking like this be suitable for?
posted by krautland at 6:10 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel like sticking poor Faith Hill's horrifying fake alien arm up his ass and spinning him around until his bogus locater is re-calibrated.

Thank you, taz. (Golf clap)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:17 AM on May 9, 2008


krautland, I was saying that someone who lives in the sort of rarefied atmosphere that he inhabits, looking as silly as he does with the whole art scarf and cocktail thing going on shouldn't be telling the end consumer to wise up and stop being "bogus", especially when he makes princely sums to sell us products based on fakery. I don't care what he looks like, but when he sneers at the ordinary people who say that there may be negative repercussions from flooding the media with impossible body images, then he incurs my wrath, and I say why should we listen to him? And look at him. Where does he get off pronouncing from on high that anything should look a certain way, and we'll like it or lump it?

And as for my photo, I'm a fairly deft hand with photoshop - I could have fixed my flaws, and believe me, I know what they are... but I chose not to, for a photo to share with some people online to give some idea of what I really look like without getting tarted up. I still think I don't look so bad for 50, despite what this man and his industry (and, apparently, you) would have me believe.
posted by taz at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2008


looking as silly as he does (...) shouldn't be telling the end consumer to wise up

I know you said that and that's precisely why I called you out as a hypocrite.

Where does he get off pronouncing from on high that anything should look a certain way, and we'll like it or lump it?
mhmmm....I don't know, freedom of speech perhaps? I faintly recall there being something like that mentioned somewhere but I am sure that has since been revoked for anyone famous, wealthy or "with the whole art scarf and cocktail thing going on" because well, they look "silly" and anyone can judge people but not these people.

I suppose judging others is only permissable for those with arguments like "I don't look so bad for 50."
posted by krautland at 7:08 AM on May 9, 2008


I just really can't get outraged by this. The women in the Dove ads still look like women, at least. I hope they retouch me a little. The Dove girls I mean. Re-touch me. Get it?
posted by Mister_A at 7:24 AM on May 9, 2008


Photoshop is everywhere!
posted by chugg at 7:43 AM on May 9, 2008


Okay, krautland - it's ouroboros of hypocrisy. How should I have put it? Despite being a hag, I don't think that he's in any position to declare me (and a lot of other people) bogus for thinking that his art can be harmful. He makes a lot of money from making people feel bad about themselves; it's in his best interest to promote the sort of advertising that requires his services. But he's a lot like the man behind the curtain... not at all impressive when you actually get a look at him, yet wielding this power to make other people feel diminished. If I point out that out, I'm taking away his freedom of speech? Or I shouldn't point it out because I'm ugly?

And I wasn't even very antipathetic against him until I came across that quote, but that was just galling. I won't try to defend what I said any more. It's okay with me if you think I shouldn't have mentioned his looks, because maybe I shouldn't have. Really, I mean that. But to me, it will feel better the next time I look at another ad featuring another perfect beauty to remember the guy behind the curtain.
posted by taz at 8:02 AM on May 9, 2008


I'm not trying to call you a hag, I am illustrating how you say he should not have the right to express his opinions or pursue his profession without living up to a higher while you assume the right to voice your opinion regardless of whether you look like zeta-jones (or whoever you'd feel would pass that hurdle). that is a double standard. it's perfectly acceptable to suggest he's wrong but to suggest that only some can say certain things is not. I'll spare you the "this could lead to" examples.
posted by krautland at 8:14 AM on May 9, 2008


To those who say too much retouching, I say you are bogus. This is the world that we're living in. Everything is glorified. I say live in your time.

I think you missed a significant part of what he was getting at:

"This world is not reality,'' he said, fingering the print. "It's just paper.''

It seems to me he's drawing a pretty big distinction between what he does for magazines and, uh, reality. I don't see what he does as being all that different from a designer putting a sleek aluminum sheath on an espresso maker. Fashion magazines have never been about reality, they've been about selling things. It seems like a really weird thing to be outraged about the falsity of advertising.

He makes a lot of money from making people feel bad about themselves;

OK, that's baloney. People need to take responsibility for their own feelings, not blame them on retouchers. That's like blaming other attractive people in the world for one's low self esteem. How is anyone supposed to ever get around to feeling good about themselves if the situation is the fault of pictures in magazines? I don't understand why anyone would willingly cede control of their happiness to some man they've never met with a bank of computers in a basement faking photos. That is a prime example of not living in the real world.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:28 AM on May 9, 2008


I saw a segment on one of those "Access Hollywood" type shows the other day. It was about a magazine that was doing a photoshoot of a dozen or so celebrities without makeup (Kristen Bell was one of them). She said how scary it was to be so exposed.

They showed the behinds-the-scenes video footage of the photoshoot. The lighting was harsh, the actresses' skin looked blotchy; they looked, in short, like regular people.

Then they showed the photos as presented in the magazine. Every imperfection had been retouched away. Skin was glowing and flawless. The pictures looked no different from any ordinary photo shoot. They had digitally painted concealer, eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, and eyeliner onto each of the images to make them look "normal." The makeup was just moved to the post-production phase.

I was kind of unclear on what the point was.
posted by designbot at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2008


I don't understand why anyone would willingly cede control of their happiness to some man they've never met with a bank of computers in a basement faking photos.

And yet, it happens. (vaguely NSFW)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:05 PM on May 9, 2008


I don't understand why anyone would willingly cede control of their happiness to some man they've never met with a bank of computers in a basement faking photos.

actually... it's not a basement but a pretty damn posh and large studio and it's not a question of a model being asked. that's an art director's decision and guess what, people don't like looking at ugly people. they buy less magazines when you give them realism and imperfection. they don't look at semi-okay women in your ads and think "gosh, I'd like to be like her." had the dove ads shown a realistic amount of stretch marks, asymmetrical bulges and all the other not-so-niceties of being overweight, the initial reaction could easily have been "you need to lay off the twinkies" in the eyes of the audience. the art director's job is to guide your reactions. asking me to not do my job right because it would please you on a theoretical level (do you like poorly taken photos of you more because they seem more "real" ?) is asking me to sacrifice my job. it's also not like you would stop complaining if I stopped making people acceptable or pleasing to your eye. you'd be up in arms in no time over us keeping to shock/offend/not care about what we let people see.

He makes a lot of money from making people feel bad about themselves;

(a) how is the level of income relevant to your argument? would this be more acceptable were it a penniless pursuit of passion?
(b) he is painting on a photograph. how you interpret it is up to you. you are applying your insecurities and blaming him. that is unfair.
posted by krautland at 3:43 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]




Awesome krautland!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:57 PM on May 9, 2008


I happened to read the article in the magazine, which has some examples of his work. He knows his Photoshop. I honestly don't think that the skills are so profoundly rare that he deserves a whole article, nor his talent so extraordinary to justify such a sweet-ass lifestyle. But reading the article, a lot of it has to do with how he got into the industry in the first place. Timing and location; in his case, late 1980s/early 1990s France, assisting a pro photog.

I don't want to sound like I'm knocking him personally, but I see shit on Fark or Worth1000 and the like all the time that blows my mind, and these guys are just fucking around, they aren't getting paid tens of thousands of dollars.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:07 PM on May 9, 2008


FuzzySkinner: "I do some retouching in the portraits I take, but, it does not substantially change what the person looks like."

you should read the article


Ar??? I read the article. You must be think I said something I didn't. Ah well.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2008



actually, apparently the Dove ads were *not* retouched in terms of their bodies and faces.

but this guy's rationalizations irk me-- at least drug dealers, who are the other people who use the "i'm only satisfying a demand" argument, provide a product that provides some pleasure along with the social harms.

i can't see how consumers benefit in any possible way from constant exposure to these images of perfection-- only the advertisers.
posted by Maias at 5:10 PM on May 9, 2008


well, they *are* nice to look at, even if they pollute your mental environment.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:21 PM on May 9, 2008


Wow, krautland, you managed to totally miss my point. Try rereading my post; I'm on the side of the retouchers.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:51 PM on May 9, 2008


I'd love to see the 56 question quiz he gives to prospective employees and I wonder how much he pays them once they been deemed worthy enough to work for him. Jobs like these can be run like sweatshops where the owner garners 90% of the cash and pays a pittace to his vastly skilled, yet underappreciated staff who are treated no better than interns who should be grateful to just have the opportunity to work long hours for not enough income to pay the bills. I just hope he's paying them enough to live well in NYC because he's living LARGE. I would have liked to hear about his vision for this photography school he dreams of starting.
posted by wherever, whatever at 9:00 PM on May 9, 2008


actually, apparently the Dove ads were *not* retouched in terms of their bodies and faces.

Woo hoo!
posted by cavalier at 4:48 AM on May 10, 2008


actually, apparently the Dove ads were *not* retouched in terms of their bodies and faces.

yeah, they were. I don't buy what the pr flacks tell the trad mag over what creatives tell each other late on a friday night.
posted by krautland at 6:19 AM on May 10, 2008


Okay the cynical/jaded/sarcastic thing here and in other post threads is getting old. Bully for you for not being taken in/being shocked/being beyond outraged/etc. Now could we perhaps talk about some other aspect of the story?

Agreed! More and more threads seem to be devolving into a contest of whose comment has the loudest eye rolling, rather than a discussion of whatever issues might be raised in the post.

I don't think anyone is unaware of the fact that a lot of photo retouching goes on. I have to admit though that I am surprised that so many big name photgraphers would hire someone else to retouch their pictures. This guy does sound intriguing and certainly busy, and more like an artist than a technician. Do I ever wish that I had half his photoshop skills!

A larger philosophical issue here, to me anyway, is that in no matter what it might be, products, processes, people, etc., there is a lot more behind the scenes involved, much more artifice and much less purity, than most would suspect.
posted by blue shadows at 12:12 PM on May 10, 2008


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