Posted by: fulto20e | November 3, 2010

Exactitudes & Composite Process

While re-reading Sekula’s “The Body and the Archive” for my midterm paper, I was reminded of a website I had found a couple years ago that seems to be inspired by the work of Francis Galton.

Sekula describes Galton’s interest in attempting to document the “true physiognomy of a race” and his development of the composite — photographing a variety of people from within a group in order to identify the common physical traits.

The website Exactitudes take the composite and applies it to social groups rather than racial groups. For example, the image set of “Casual Queers” shows that this social group shares a similar haircut and clothing style. Each man sports closely cropped hair, a button-up plaid shirt that they tuck in to belted jeans. What should be noted is that these social groups are not racially diverse — perhaps because certain social groups often occur primarily  within one racial group.

Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have worked together since October 1994. Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, they have systematically documented numerous identities over the last 16 years.

They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.

It’s a fascinating website, so check it out — and maybe identify which group you belong in!


Sekula, Allan. “The Body and the Archive.” October 39 (1986): 3-64.


  1. What a fascinating website! Thanks for sharing it. I have to wonder if people sometimes self-categorize and are wrong according to the understanding of the project. The idea of control of one’s image is challenged here. Does the project have the say over who goes where? Do they sway people into conforming? If one were to disagree with their labelling, what then can they do but change their mindset about their image or challenge the judgment of others.

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