It is no secret that yours truly has inveighed against the saturation of mediated images in film, television, magazines. In other words, everywhere. I first became fascinated (then much later outraged) by the widespread use of computers on images of–well, everything–after watching a computer animator assemble a bucolic background with mountains, trees, grass, and an old-fashioned train and tracks running through it. He moved the elements around, making sure the finished product was a faultless representation of a small town train station in the mountains.
That is old news. We know that every form of visual media use green screens, blue screens, CGI, etc. As your faithful correspondent has also spoken to a CGI expert whose job it was to fill out Sarah Jessica Parker’s bony hands frame by frame in Sex and the City 2. Consumers are used to it, so what is the problem? But do they really know what it is that they have become used to?
Now your own camera can “fix” your pictures so your personal visual reality is more satisfying. Even if it does not match what you see in the mirror.
The cosmetic surgery industry is booming. More than at any time, people, men and women, hate their faces and bodies.
An article that addressed that several years ago was “Pixel Perfect” by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker. A profile of Pascal Dangin, a master retoucher who changes the world that you perceive far more than you are aware.
Pascal Dangin is the premier retoucher of fashion photographs. Art
directors and admen call him when they want someone who looks less than great to
look great, someone who looks great to look amazing, or someone who looks
amazing already to look, as is the mode, superhuman.
…retouchers tend to practice semi-clandestinely. “It is known that everybody does it, but they protest,” Dangin said recently. I mentioned the Dove ad campaign that proudly featured lumpier-than-usual “real women” in their undergarments. It turned out that it was a Dangin job. “Do you know how much retouching was on that?” he asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”
[During a session]…he proceeded to a shot of the actress reclining on a divan in a
diaphanous couture gown. “She looks too small, because she’s teeny,” he said. On
a drop-down menu, he selected a warping tool, a device that augments the volume
of clusters of pixels. The dress puffed up, pleasingly, as if it had been
fluffed by some helpful lady-in-waiting inside the screen.
Next, Dangin moved the mouse so that the pointer hovered near the actress’s neck. “I softened the collarbones, but then she started to get too retouched, so I put back some stuff,” he explained. He pressed a button and her neck got a little bonier. He
clicked more drop-down menus—master opacity stamp, clone stamp. … He zoomed in so that her eyeball was the size of a fifty-cent piece. “I love all of this
little wrinkle”—laugh lines, staying put—“and the texture of skin. As you
retouch skin, you can very quickly shift the tonal value. If you put a highlight
where shadow used to be, you’re morphing the way the orbital socket is
structured. It leads to a very generic look.” Ultimately, he had minimized the
actress’s temples, which bulged a little, tightened the skin around her chin,
and excised a fleshy bump from her forehead. She had an endearingly crooked
bottom row of teeth, which Dangin knew better than to fix.
In another shot, the actress stood in the middle of a busy city street, in
front of a limestone building. Dangin blew up the segment of the screen that
showed her feet, which were traversed with ropy blue veins. Click. Gone.
“There’s a little slumpiness, and the knees look really big,” he said,
stroking a touch pad with a gray plastic stylus to contour the actress’s legs.
I urge my beloved readers to read article in its entirety. There is far more than can be conveyed in one entry. Next time you find yourself in despair because you don’t look like Anne Hathaway, bear in mind that Anne Hathaway doesn’t look like that either.