Strangers: A Bizarre Series of Composite Portraits, Each Made Up of 200 Close-Ups


Photographer Pelle Cass is fond of composites. The set of so-called ‘single frame time-lapses’ he put together for his Selected People series has gone quite viral.

But his fondness for composite photography doesn’t stop at creating overcrowded scenes, he applied the same approach to taking portraits, creating a bizarre (and perhaps a little unsettling) series of portraits called Strangers in the process.

We use the word unsettling because that’s exactly what Cass himself said has maybe kept these photos from getting as much attention as his Selected People series. But the truth is, one series inspired the other:

I started the Strangers series in 2010 after Selected People (my other series of composite photos of crowds started in 2008) because I wanted to invert the formula. Instead of taking hundreds of pictures of a street scene and combining them into one picture, I wanted to take hundreds of pictures of one person’s face and recombine them into one picture.


Each of the portraits you see here is a composite of some 200 very close-up photos of a single person’s face. “I take about two-hundred pictures of a single person’s face up very close so just part of a nose, mouth or cheek, etc., filled the frame,” says Cass. “Then I put them back together again in Photoshop, humpty-dumpty-wise.”

He likes this use of Photoshop because, quite contrary to its typical use, his approach “increase[s] imperfection” rather than removing it. “I work quickly and let the distortions happen,” he explained.

Here’s a look at the rest of the series:













All of the people in the photos are friends of Cass’ — mostly artists and writers he met at an artist residency — but Cass says they don’t have to worry about people recognizing them in their distorted state:

I don’t think anyone but very close friends and family would recognize them from my pictures. For me, that’s where the mystery comes in. These are portraits that are made entirely of extremely closely observed facts by an excellent transcribing device — the camera — that do not resemble the person that they are “of” even though there is more detail and more information in my pictures than most.

“For me, these faces speak with two voices,” continues Cass “One says, ‘look at me, I look like this.’ The other says, ‘look at me, I don’t exist on this earth.'”

To see more of Cass work, be sure to visit our previous coverage on the Selected People series and, when you’re done there, head over to his website to browse through the rest of his portfolio.

(via Laughing Squid)

Image credits: Photographs by Pelle Cass and used with permission.

  • Josh Wallace

    I’m pretty sure all these people did coke.

  • insideu


  • Brett

    “True photos come from a silvered plate!”

  • James F. Reilly


  • Bart van der Horst

    kinda sad

  • superduckz

    Interesting enough I suppose but what is the point/message/statement here? Not hating, just curious.

  • Dean

    It’s been done. Time to move on.

  • Shane Johnston

    So just because it’s been done before, one shouldn’t do it? That’s just ignorance.

  • frank mckenna

    I checked out his photography website and Selected People was actually a pretty cool concept and creates interesting pictures. This project is a little depressing and sad.

  • David Vaughn

    Not trying to sound all snarky…but does there have to be a point? Why does every creative endeavor have to “make a statement?”

  • Alex lewis

    A lot of annoying haters on this site, its meant to inspire, if you don’t like it, at least make a valid point, or make one positive point.. so negative!

  • Kodachrome64

    Saying something has “been done” has been done, so by your own advice, you should have moved on and not commented. Yet you did. Pretty deep.

  • Andrew

    Well, the guy has just mutilated a bunch of people for nothing, what exactly is positive/inspiring about that?

  • Andrew

    Well, it’s either a statement, either a «purely visual» (i.e. visually appealing, interesting, original) thing. Those pics are neither one, nor another.