Living Photographs, photographs created by assembling sailors and soldiers, 1918

Thousands of soldiers, reservists and other members of the army were arranged to create large-scale compositions. Although these masses of men would appear in vain if viewed from the ground or directly above, when viewed from the top of the 80-foot viewing tower, they clearly appeared to be of various patriotic shapes.

Nearly a century ago and without the aid of any pixel-generating computer software, traveling photographer Arthur Moll and his colleague John D. Thomas used an interesting technique to stage a series of extraordinary collective photographic spectacles, which choreographed living bodies in symbolic forms of the religious. and nationalist images.

In these collective ornaments, thousands of military servicemen and other groups were artistically arranged to create American patriotism symbols, emblems, and military insignia visible from a bird's-eye perspective.

During World War I, these military formations served as rallying points to support American involvement in the war and ward off separatist tendencies.

The most interesting thing about these images is that Mole calls them "living photographs." From the photographer's point of view, the symbols are brought to life through the living soldiers who embody them.

But these images can also be viewed from the opposite point of view: We symbolize humans as dead in form and formation.

Moll and Thomas were using an 11 x 14-inch visual camera, which was located on a 24-metre-high tower (80 ft). First, he placed a wireframe of the desired image on a glass plate in Mr. Mole's camera. Then, with the help of assistants, the trace of the image seen from the camera was "transferred" to the ground under the tower.

Armed with a megaphone and a long stick with a white flag on it (so it is seen from afar), Mole was able to show assistants how and where to plot the curves of the desired image.

It took several weeks to prepare for the shooting—and the actual situation of the people—many hours. It was a very remarkable display of planning and logistics prowess.

Due to perspective distortion, there are more men at the top of the Mole and Thomas photos than at the bottom. For example, in the "Human Statue of Liberty" photo, the torch flame was created with the help of 2/3 of the total number of men available for the photoshoot.

Roughly, out of 18,000 people, the entire torch element took on 16,000 people, while the rest of the "statue" was built using only 2,000 people.

On a rough July day in 1918, 18,000 officers and soldiers posed as Lady Liberty in the parade [drill] grounds of Camp Dodge. [This area was west of Baker St and is currently the area around building S34 and west.]

According to a Fort Dodge Messenger story on July 3, 1986, several men fainted—they were wearing wool uniforms—as temperatures neared 105°F. The photograph, taken from the top of a specially constructed tower by Chicago photography studio, Moll & Thomas, was intended to help promote the sale of war bonds, but was never used.

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