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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Master's of the Group Shot ~ Arthur S. Mole and John D. Thomas

So you thought just North Koreans are great at massive group formations. During World War I, photographers Arthur S. Mole and John D. Thomas traveled from one military camp to another taking photos of soldiers forming patriotic symbols as a part of planned promotional campaign to sell war bonds.
Thousands soldiers would form gigantic patriotic symbols such as Statue of Liberty, president Woodrow Wilson, American Eagle or Liberty Bell which were photographed from above.
Mole and Thomas spent days preparing formations which were photographed from a 70 to 80 foot tower with an 11x14 inch glass plate camera. Mole called them “living photographs.”

Photos by Mole and Thomas are now part of the Chicago Historical Society, the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.

Human U.S. Shield
30,000 officers and men, Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Mich.

* Note the forced perspective. There are many more soldiers in the back of the image than the front.  Genius!

Human American Eagle
12,500 officers, nurses and men; Camp Gordon, Atlanta

 Human Liberty Bell
25,000 officers and men at Camp Dix, New Jersey

Human Statue of Liberty
18,000 officers and men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Ia

On a stifling July day in 1918, 18,000 officers and soldiers posed as Lady Liberty on the parade [drill] grounds at Camp Dodge." "According to a July 3, 1986, story in the Fort Dodge Messenger, many men fainted—they were dressed in woolen uniforms—as the temperature neared 105 degrees Fahrenheit [41 degrees Celsius]. The photo, taken from the top of a specially constructed tower by a Chicago photography studio, Mole & Thomas, was intended to help promote the sale of war bonds but was never used." Wow... well I don't feel so bad about the campaign I shot last summer that was never used. 

"The design for the living picture was laid out at the drill ground at Camp Dodge, situated in the beautiful valley of the Des Moines River. Thousands of yards of white tape were fastened to the ground and formed the outlines on which 18,000 officers and men marched to their respective positions." one of the men in the photograph above.

 Living Insignia of the 27th Division “New York’s Own”
10,000 officers and enlisted men, Breakers of the Hinderburg Line

Machine Gun Insignia
22,500 officers and men, 600 machine guns at Machine Gun Training Center, Camp Hancock, Augusta, Ga.

 Living Uncle Sam
19,000 officers and men, Camp Lee, VA.

 Living Emblem of the United States Marines
100 officers and 9,000 enlisted men, Marine Barracks, Paris Islands, S.C.

Sincerely yours, Woodrow Wilson
21,000 officers and men, Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio

The 11th Division Seal

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