Henry Pickering Bowditch: 12 Boston Doctors and their Composite 1892

Henry Pickering Bowditch: 12 Boston Doctors and their Composite 1892

I suppose composite portraiture like this is a natural and logical outcome of the 19th century mindset, and its fascination with typologies, phrenology, the science of physiognomy, and the early theories of eugenics (by another influential composite portraitist and eugenicist Francis Galton. The idea that composite portraits would reveal the essential archetype or ur-type of a group of professionals seems fanciful now, but the explorations of digital imagist Nancy Burson 100 years after Bowditch and Galton are still fascinating. These composite portraits are further examples of the emergence of a photographic aesthetic in the 19th century that very much foreshadows modern digital imaging practice – layering images, and compositing special effects.

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