DescriptionPhotographers have often tried to demonstrate that their medium could surpass the limits of reproducing single instances and could instead create images that visualize the invisible over time and space. Consider again the case of Sir Francis Galton (1882-1911), who in addition to his work on the statistical distribution of human characteristics, also invented the idea of a synthetic portrait, or a photograph that overlays and combines multiple shots of one person’s face, or many members of an extended family, or even numerous members of a racial or national type.
The Galtonian work of the French photographer, Arthur Batut (1846-1918) stands as an excellent example of this technique. Here, in the upper arc, Batut presents photographs of eight coal miners from the Montagne Noire region of France, juxtaposed in the lower arc by nine women born in the Pyrénées, a region some 100 kilometers distant. In the center row, Batut superimposes the images of the men at left and the images of the women at right, making a synthetic depiction of these groups, segregated by gender. The image at the very center is a synthetic portrait of all of these individuals at once. Batut then argues that these photographs make it clear that these two groups, even though separated by a great distance, are indeed directly related to one another because of their visual similarity, for reasons he associates with the Albigensian Crusade of the thirteenth century.
Researcher: Josh Ellenbogen