Monday, March 15, 2010

Francis Galton's Composite Portraits

Francis Galton (1822-1911), the first to coin the term "eugenics," developed a photographic overlay technique called composite photography. Galton mistakenly thought that he could construct bio-types and discover biological similarities between different members of similar social classes, races, families, and professions. While he thought he was working towards the social good, believing that his findings would aid in medical diagnoses and law enforcement practice, his pseudoscience photography was taken incredibly seriously by many people. It isnt hard to see how problematic it is to construct an "ideal" criminal bio-type and then go around arresting people with "criminal" facial features before they have the opportunity to commit crimes. Galton's foray into composite photography was an important step towards totalizing social control. Composite photography and Phrenology in the same period both were used to attempt to discern group identification and deeper psycho-pathological structures based on surface visibilities. Included below is a 6 page article of Galton explaining in his own words what he thought he was doing, as well as an excursus on his methodology. Below that are several of his composites, including the criminal type, the Jewish type, and American scientists, amongst others.


Anonymous 5:09 PM  

As a Jewish Scientist-type, the only rival to my noble shnoz is my fulsome cranium.