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Composite photograph of psychology students and William Lowe Bryan

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The image seen here is an example of a composite portrait invented by Sir Francis Galton in the 1880's. In this example you are viewing an image of twenty Indiana University students and their instructor superimposed over each other by registering (aligning) the eyes of each person.

In a letter to "Dear Friend" dated February 1920 William Lowe Bryan said of this composite photograph (note: Bryan is writing to the people in this image asking for a present-day photograph of themselves in order to have a new composite made to compare to this 1888 version. In the first paragraph below Bryan refers to "...these pictures...". He is referring not only to the composite image seen here, but also image number P0043024 which is a different type of composite), in full:

"In the winter of 1888 twenty members of the class in Sociology went with me to Harmon Fedder's photograph gallery and had our pictures taken. Mr. Fedder then made a composite picture of the twenty-one. You probably have these pictures somewhere.

I should like to have made a composite of the members of the class who survive. Will you please have made and send to me a cabinet photograph? Let it be a square front view and let it be as near as possible of the size of the picture which I enclose. The photographer here will make the composite pictures.

I shall hope to have the picture made before commencement and shall be glad to present you one. It will be interesting to see how the composite picture will be changed with the decades that have passed."

In an undated, but probably early 1947 note which is quoted on page 21 of the April 1947 Indiana Alumni Magazine Bryan writes, in full:

"In the eighteen eighties photographers found a way to make what were called composite photographs. In many current journals one would see 'composites' for example of forty policeman, or of thirty physicians or of twenty doctors of philosophy - or of some other group whose individual photographs also were shown.

I proposed to my class in psychology of 1885 that we have our 'composite' made. I suggested an analogy between the individual picture and a percept and between the 'composite' and a concept. Whether this would be reckoned good psychology now I know not.

There was of course the story of a Margery [sic: Marjorie] Daw, cousin of Mr. Aldrich's heroine, who lost her heart not to the face that launched a thousand ships but to a 'composite' only to learn in bitterness as Mrs. Gamp's friend did there wasn't no sich person. Anyway here we were and here the 'concept' of that class of '85."

photographer studio:

Fedder, Bloomngton, Indiana

copyright owner:

Fedder, Bloomington, Indiana

corporate name:

Psychology, Department of

corporate name:

Sociology, Department of


Composite photographs














1888 - Composites