Live photographs by Arthur Mole
Live photographs by Arthur Mole, British-born American commercial photographer. Arthur Samuel Mole (January 7, 1889, – 14 August 1983) became known for the series of his human photo compositions made during World War I – Woodrow Wilson, the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, an American eagle, an emblem of the YMCA, and the Allied flag. Some massive compositions required the placement of to 30,000 people – soldiers, members of the military. John D. Thomas was his partner in this endeavor. Arthur Mole is considered a pioneer in the field of performed group photography. Executing photographs using such large numbers, and relying on lines of perspective stretching out more than a hundred meters, required a week of preparation and then hours to actually position the formations. Mole would stand on his viewing tower and shout into a megaphone or use a long pole with a white flag to arrange the tens of thousands of soldiers into position.
American commercial photographer Arthur Samuel Mole was able to capture these fantastic images in the period of 1915-1920, in the middle of the World War I. His goal was to recover the image of an American identity at the time in which the United States entered this conflict in 1917. The great dimension of this Project still assumes greater proportions by the philanthropist characteristic of its authors, that instead of prospering with the sale of the images produced, donated all their profit to the families of the soldiers who returned from the conflict and intended to redo their lives.
Arthur Mole and John Thomas, at a time when photography was taking its first steps, were able to, through their perseverance and technical ability, photograph large groups that created symbolic representations of objects and people. Considering 21st century’s capabilities, such task, which requires as many as 30 000 people to pose at a time, is both complex and filled with details, forcing us to keep their magnificent achievements in perspective.
Mole’s work is featured in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress. The photographs were again presented to the public in the July 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living. Eight of the images are displayed in a feature article. Furthermore, his technique lives on in a contemporary military public relations context.