12 May 2008

Norms and Reality

"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—whether by dint of DNA or M·A·C—to look, as is the mode, superhuman. (Christy Turlington, for the record, needs the least help.) In the March issue of Vogue Dangin tweaked a hundred and forty-four images: a hundred and seven advertisements (Estée Lauder, Gucci, Dior, etc.), thirty-six fashion pictures, and the cover, featuring Drew Barrymore."
This is a short passage from the start of a New Yorker profile of Pascal Dangin. He mis-represents for a living, allowing fashion rags to sell the illusions of flawless skin and full lips and perfect boobs and long slender legs. His work (and, no doubt, that of many others in his line of work) apparently is ubiquitous. What he is selling along the way, of course, is a set of norms that govern "common sense" assessments of beauty and fitness and shape. So, when the fashionistas and their acolytes go on about how this or that model or celeb looks simply "fabulous" in this or that shoot, it is important to remind them that what they are seeing bears scant relation to reality. Unless, of course, we come to understand that our own expectations about reality are crafted by Dangin and his ilk. And then we can use Botox and other such crucial inventions to try to approximate their illusions.

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