Composite photographs were a creative response to a practical problem. Long exposure times made it frustratingly difficult to get interesting and universally pleasing photographs of large groups. Inevitably someone moved, or the whole group ended up looking rigid in their efforts not to move. To create this photo, Notman’s Ottawa partner, William James Topley, advertised for volunteers to pose in his studio in costume. He then arranged several hundred of the individual portraits as if they were at the ball in Rideau Hall.
William Notman’s Photographic Inventions
Notman/Topley Studio, Fancy Ball Given by the Governor General Lord Dufferin at Rideau Hall on February 23, 1876, Ottawa, 1876
Composite, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa