Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/477

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COMPOSITE PORTRAITS.
stereoscope, and that a person who is used to handle instruments will find a common double eye-glass fitted with stereoscopic lenses to be almost as effectual and far handier than the boxes sold in shops."

Mr. Spencer, as he informed me, had actually devised an instrument, many years ago, for tracing mechanically longitudinal, transverse, and horizontal sections of heads on transparent paper, intending to superimpose them and to obtain an average result by transmitted light.

Since my address was published, I have caused trials to be made, and have found as a matter of fact that the photographic process of which I there spoke enables us to obtain with mechanical precision a generalized picture; one that represents no man in particular, but portrays an imaginary figure, possessing the average features of any given group of men. These ideal faces have a surprising air of reality. Nobody who glanced at one of them for the first time would doubt its being the likeness of a living person. Yet, as I have said, it is no such thing; it is the portrait of a type, and not of an individual.

I begin by collecting photographs of the persons with whom I propose to deal. They must be similar in attitude and size, but no exactness is necessary in either of these respects. Then by a simple contrivance I make two pinholes in each of them, to enable me to hang them up one in front of the other, like a pack of cards, upon the same pair of pins, in such a way that the eyes of all the portraits shall be as nearly as possible superimposed; in which case the remainder of the features will also be superimposed nearly enough. These pinholes correspond to what are technically known to printers as "register-marks." They are easily made; a slip of brass or card has an aperture cut out of its middle, and threads are stretched from opposite sides, making a cross.

PSM V13 D477 Step one in assembling a composite photograph.jpg
Fig. 1.

Two small holes are drilled in the plate, one on either side of the aperture. The slip of brass is laid on the portrait with the aperture over its face. It is turned about until one of the cross-threads cuts the pupils of both the eyes, and it is further adjusted until the other thread divides the interval between the pupils in two equal parts. Then it is held firmly, and a prick is made through each of the holes. The portraits being thus arranged, a photographic camera is directed upon