The Human Statue of Liberty

Photograph/Arthur S Mole and John D Thomas Image Source/ Wikimedia Commons

Photograph/Arthur S Mole and John D Thomas
Image Source/Wikimedia Commons

When photography was still at its nascent stage, two photographers produced a series of extraordinary images using large groups of people to form breathtaking shapes. Arthur S Mole, a British-born commercial photographer travelled with his partner John D Thomas from one military camp to another, during the First World War. To make such large scale productions, they posed thousands of soldiers to form gigantic patriotic symbols. In many ways, they were pioneers in the field of group photography.

The image above was shot at the training camp Dodge in Iowa, USA. 18,000 men preparing for war were made to stand in a specific formation so that they depicted an image of the Statue of Liberty. Records say that 12,000 men were used to form the torch and flame, with 2800 men forming the flame alone. Execution of such photographs using such large numbers, were done solely by relying on lines of perspective stretching out for more than a hundred meters. It took them a week of preparation and then hours to actually perfect the arrangement. They would then capture the formation from a watch tower, 80 feet above the ground with an 11 x 14 inch view camera. Some of their other famous works are images of the Liberty Bell, American Eagle, The Human US Shield and Woodrow Wilson. Even though such formations may be easier to create today, capturing such a spectacle then is still mind-boggling.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: USA, march 2013, Statue of Liberty, Arthur S Mole, John D Thomas, Training Camp, Iowa, Human Statue of Liberty, Group photography