Innovators and innovation

Lots about innovation this past week. The May 12 edition of The New Yorker was the Innovators Issue, and one of the better ones in recent memory.

It features an article by Malcolm Gladwell, ostensibly about Nathan Myhrvold and his company Intellectual Ventures, a sort of idea-generating patent-filing machine, but really about the radical idea that innovation or innovative ideas may not be as rare as we think, may not be the result of genius and eureka moments. Can you capture innovation or ideas merely by dedicating time and resources to searching for them?

The issue also features a profile of someone who I've never heard of but whose work I've undoubtedly seen dozens if not hundreds of times: Pascal Dangin, the world's foremost digital retoucher of fashion photographs.

Vanity Fair, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, V, and the Times Magazine, among others, also use Dangin. Many photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, rarely work with anyone else. Around thirty celebrities keep him on retainer, in order to insure that any portrait of them that appears in any outlet passes through his shop, to be scrubbed of crow’s-feet and stray hairs.

I'm aware that most fashion photographs are worked over in post-production, but seeing an example of Dangin's work in the actual print copy of the issue surprised me with how much he actually alters body parts and features. Manipulating the truth, or giving the public what it wants?

But playing with the representational possibilities of photographs, and the bodies contained therein, has always aroused the suspicion of viewers with a perpetual, if naïve, desire for objective renderings of the world around them. As much as it is a truism that photography is subjective, it is also a truism that many of its beholders—even those who happily eliminate red-eye from their wedding albums—will take umbrage when confronted with evidence of its subjectivity. Eastlake was responding to the distress of certain members of the London Photographic Society over a series of photographs taken deliberately out of focus. More recently, Kate Winslet protested that the digital slimming of her figure on the cover of British GQ was “excessive,