Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/478

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

them. Suppose there are eight portraits in the pack, and that under existing circumstances it would require an exposure of eighty seconds to give an exact photographic copy of any one of them. The general principle of proceeding is this, subject in practice to some variation of details, depending on the different brightness of the several portraits: We throw the image of each of the eight portraits in turn upon the same part of the sensitized plate for ten seconds. Thus, portrait No. 1

PSM V13 D478 Composites assembled for photography.jpg
Fig. 2.

is in the front of the pack; we take the cap off the object-glass of the camera for ten seconds, and afterward replace it. We then remove No. 1 from the pins, and No. 2 appears in the front; we take off the cap a second time for ten seconds, and again replace it. Next we remove No. 2, and No. 3 appears in the front, which we treat as its predecessors, and so we go on to the last of the pack. The sensitized plate will now have had its total exposure of eighty seconds; it is then developed, and the print taken from it is the generalized picture of which I speak. It is a composite of eight component portraits. Those of its outlines are sharpest and darkest that are common to the largest number of the components; the purely individual peculiarities leave little or no visible trace. The latter being necessarily disposed equally on both sides of the average, the outline of the composite is the average of all the components. It is a band, and not a fine line, because the outlines of the components are seldom exactly superimposed. The band will be darkest in its middle whenever the component portraits have the same general type of features, and its breadth or amount of blur will measure the tendency of the components to deviate from the common type. This is so for the very same reason that the shot-marks on a target are more thickly disposed near the bull's-eye than away from it, and in a greater degree as the marksmen are more skillful. All that has been said of the outlines is equally true as regards the shadows; the result being that the composite represents an averaged figure, whose lineaments have been softly drawn. The eyes come out with appropriate distinctness, owing to the mechanical conditions under which the components were hung.

A composite portrait represents the picture that would rise before the mind's eye of a man who had the gift of pictorial imagination in an exalted degree. But the imaginative power even of the highest artists is far from precise, and is so apt to be biased by special cases that may have struck their fancies, that no two artists agree in any of their typi-