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This paper presents a family of techniques that we call congealing for modeling image classes from data. The idea is to start with a set of images and make them appear as similar as possible by removing variability along the known axes of variation. This technique can be used to eliminate "nuisance" variables such as affine deformations from handwritten digits or unwanted bias fields from magnetic resonance images. In addition to separating and modeling the latent images - i.e., the images without the nuisance variables - we can model the nuisance variables themselves, leading to factorized generative image models. When nuisance variable distributions are shared between classes, one can share the knowledge learned in one task with another task, leading to efficient learning. We demonstrate this process by building a handwritten digit classifier from just a single example of each class. In addition to applications in handwritten character recognition, we describe in detail the application of bias removal from magnetic resonance images. Unlike previous methods, we use a separate, nonparametric model for the intensity values at each pixel. This allows us to leverage the data from the MR images of different patients to remove bias from each other. Only very weak assumptions are made about the distributions of intensity values in the images. In addition to the digit and MR applications, we discuss a number of other uses of congealing and describe experiments about the robustness and consistency of the method.