Profiles in Self-Education - Pascal Dangin

One of the major themes you’ll see developing on the Personal MBA blog over the next few months is what I’m calling “Profiles in Self-Education." The intent of these posts is to call to your attention a few of the millions of self-educated individuals around the world who are accomplishing (or have accomplished) great things.

We all need a little inspiration in our lives, and reading profiles of other self-educated people is a great way to develop a greater appreciation for what you can achieve if you’re willing to spend time and effort developing your skills and abilities.

This week’s profile is of a very unlikely businessman: a former hairdresser turned digital Rembrandt.

Pascal Dangin

Pascal Dangin is currently the world’s most sought-after photo retoucher. A master of Photoshop with an artist’s eye, his post-production work regularly graces the covers and pages of virtually every major fashion publication, improving upon the work of photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti, Inez van Lamsweerde, Vinoodh Matadin, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia.

How did Dangin develop his world-renowned skills? He taught himself…

From this recent profile of Dangin in the New Yorker :

A tinkerer and an autodidact, who started out as a hairdresser, Dangin brings to mind, actually, a building superintendent: he knows how to do a lot of jobs, and those he doesn’t he figures out through trial and error. He is, more than anything, the consigliere for a generation of photographers uncomfortable with, or uninterested in, the details of digital technology. According to Cotton, “Pascal is actually an unwritten author of what is leading the newest areas of contemporary image-making…."

…While doing hair for photo shoots in New York he became interested in the crossover between cameras and computers. He had a friend who had a Mac Quadra. “We had a deal where at night I could use his computer," Dangin recalled. “I used to go to his studio at seven-thirty, disconnect his computer, put it in a tote bag, and walk six blocks to my apartment. I’d work all night long, learning programming, and then by 7 A.M. have to stop so that when he woke up his computer would be there."

Eventually, Dangin got a computer of his own, a Toshiba laptop. Hanging around shoots, he would make suggestions to photographers about how they could change their angles or correct their colors. A few of them began asking him to ply his effects on their images. “I always said no," Dangin recalled. “I was very secretive in my studio. I hated the simple fact that, unless I got really good, I would have to be there waiting like a chimpanzee for someone to say, ‘Make it darker over here.’" He continued to hone his techniques and, in 1993, finally accepted his first paid retouching job: splicing a curtain onto a rod for the cover of a window-hangings brochure.

Dangin is now the founder and CEO of Box Studios , where he leads a team of 40 photo post-production experts doing work for major magazines, photographers, and ad agencies. He and his staff typically handle 10,000 photo projects at any given time, which range in revenue from $500 for a small photo to $20,000 for the cover of a major magazine.

(Hat tip to Seth Roberts for bringing my attention to the profile.)

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Published: May 9, 2008Last updated: May 9, 2008

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