the composite photograph reached its ultimate perfection in the work of William Notman of Montreal, as a glance at pages 21 through 27 will confirm. But there's a sort of footnote to this curious phase of photography that we can’t pass by. In the Roaring Twenties the composite re-appeared, this time in the pages of Bernarr Macfadden’s incredible tabloid, the New York Graphic. These “composographs,” as they were called, re-created scenes the Graphic’s photographers couldn’t photograph. By Notman’s standards they were pretty crude, but they helped boom the paper’s circulation.
The first composograph sprang from a notorious divorce case. Kip Rhinelander, wealthy socialite, was suing his new bride on grounds that she’d concealed her Negro blood. To prove it hadn’t been a
secret, she stripped to the waist in court. The judge barred cameras, but Harry Grogin, the Graphic’s art editor, hired a showgirl and had her pose similarly attired in front of a group of Graphic reporters. He then superimposed heads of the jurors and the job was done.
Other composographs followed: Lindbergh landing in Paris; Valentino dying on the operating table; Valentino in Heaven; Joyce Hawley bathing in Earl Carroll’s bathtub of champagne; a murderer hanging; a woman shooting her husband; and the endless shenanigans of “Daddy” and “Peaches” Browning. Enough to make old William Notman turn in his grave, egad! Alas, the Graphic went under following the stock-market crash. The composograph, like its forerunner, the composite, has become a thing of the past, it
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