Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The living photos of Arthur Mole

In the photograph above, 21,000 soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio, were positioned in 1918 to form a portrait of American president Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), who was in office during World War I. The men were painstakingly placed to achieve the likeness from the point of view of the 80' tower from which the shot was captured. "The image is characteristic of Mole's work in that it wavers between the compositional effect of the whole (i.e. a portrait of Woodrow Wilson) and the desire to focus upon the obscured individuals who constitute the image, thereby undermining the optical illusion of the totality to a degree," reads Oddee. The so-called novelty photo has become the lasting legacy of British photographer Arthur S. Mole (1889-1983) and his associate John D. Thomas, and they are considered pioneers in the field of performed group photography. The Illinois-based pair made a series of such photos across the country, each made up of thousands of choreographed bodies:
To carry out these photo shoots required a week of preparation and hours of positioning. John F. Ptak points out, "[It] takes a little bit of planning to accomplish to ensure that everything is kept in perspective, and which also means that a lot more folks are needed at the top of the constructed image than at the bottom." He points out that if you look at Uncle Sam's beard, you will see the soldiers lying down. Nothing intentional in Lady Liberty, though many of the participating men were said to have fainted in the 105°F July heat!
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