Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/479

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COMPOSITE PORTRAITS.

cal forms. The merit of the photographic composite is its mechanical precision, being subject to no errors beyond those incidental to all photographic productions.

I submit several composites made for me by Mr. H. Reynolds. The first set of portraits are those of criminals convicted of murder, manslaughter, or robbery accompanied with violence. It will be observed that the features of the composites are much better looking than those of the components. The special villainous irregularities in the latter have disappeared, and the common humanity that underlies them has prevailed. They represent, not the criminal, but the man who is liable to fall into crime. All composites are better looking than their components, because the averaged portrait of many persons is free from the irregularities that variously blemish the looks of each of them. I selected these for my first trials because I happened to possess a large collection of photographs of criminals through the kindness of Sir Edmund Du Cane, the Director-General of Prisons, for the purpose of investigating criminal types. They were peculiarly adapted to my present purpose, being all made of about the same size and taken in much the same attitudes. It was while endeavoring to elicit the principal criminal types by methods of optical superimposition of the portraits, such as I had frequently employed with maps and meteorological traces,[1] that the idea of composite figures first occurred to me.

The other set of composites are made from pairs of components. They are selected to show the extraordinary facility of combining almost any two faces whose proportions are in any way similar.

It will, I am sure, surprise most persons to see how well-defined these composites are. When we deal with faces of the same type, the points of similarity far outnumber those of dissimilarity, and there is a much greater resemblance between faces generally than we who turn our attention to individual differences are apt to appreciate. A traveler, on his first arrival among people of a race very different from his own, thinks them closely alike, and a Hindoo has much difficulty in distinguishing one Englishman from another.

The fairness with which photographic composites represent their components is shown by six of the specimens. I wished to learn whether the order in which the components were photographed made any material difference in the result, so I had three of the portraits arranged successively in each of their six possible combinations. It will be observed that four at least of the six composites are closely alike. I should say that in each of this set the last of the three components was always allowed a longer exposure than the second, and the second than the first, but it is found better to allow an equal time to all of them.

The stereoscope, as I stated last August in my address at Plymouth,

  1. "Conference at the Loan Exhibition of Scientific Instruments," 1878. Chapman & Hall. Physical Geography Section, p. 312. "On Means of combining Various Data in Maps and Diagrams," by Francis Galton, F. R. S.