Feel-Good! | airplanes | animals | architecture | art | auto | cool ads | funny | food | futurism | gadgets | russia | japan
military | music | nature | photo | sci-fi | signs | space | sports | steampunk | technology | trains | travel | vintage | weird

Article by Avi Abrams

Human Pixels: Group Art during the days of early photography

Just before the World War One the country needed patriotic images, aiming to recover national identity with the help of the rising art of photography. Arthur Mole (1889-1983) together with John Thomas used their 11 x 14-inch view camera to create the so-called "living photographs", done on a monumental scale. By arranging thousands of soldiers (reservists, or nurses) in various patriotic symbols and photographing them from above, they were able to use lines of perspective to transform meaningless masses into artistic shapes and even portraits. (See more images at the Library of Congress gallery, not copyrighted)

"Sincerely yours, Woodrow Wilson, 1918"
21,000 officers and men, Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio

"The Human U.S. Shield, 1918"
30,000 officers and men, Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan

From his 80-feet viewing tower, Arthur Mole would shout into his megaphone, or even use a long pole with a white flag to position tens of thousands of soldiers on the field and then nail the pattern to the ground with miles of lace borders. He also had to figure out the exact numbers of troops required and the final perspective at the viewpoint. The monumentality of each project called for many weeks of meticulous preparation work.

"Living Uncle Sam, 1919"

"The Human American Eagle, 1918"
12,500 officers, nurses and men; Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Ga.

"Living Emblem of the United States Marines, 1919"

"The Human Liberty Bell, 1918"
25000 officers and men at Camp Dix, New Jersey

See many other Arthur Mole & John Thomas works (in higher resolution) at the Hammer Gallery.

"A Living Flag, 1917" (Mayhart Studio, Chicago)

Based in Zion, Illinois, Arthur Mole visited many army, marine and navy camps across the country, carrying out his inspired & monumental work. He was clearly influenced by the patriotic spirit of his fellow Americans during a "life during wartime", as well as driven by his personal spiritual convictions. In the end, Mole and Thomas donated the entire income from their endeavors to the families of the returning soldiers and the government's efforts to re-build their lives.

"The Zion Shield, 1920".
All images courtesy Chicago Historical Society.

The other great overview of his work can be found in "Cabinet Magazine" article by Louis Kaplan, Associate professor of history and Theory at the University of Toronto.

Other Connoisseurs of Early Group Photography

One of the most notable photographers of "living people groups" was Eugene Omar Goldbeck. Along with the large scale work, he also took photographic portraits of important personalities, such as Albert Einstein.
A detail of larger group, made as late as 1947:

Indoctrination Division, Air Training Command, Lackland
Air Base San Antonio, TX, 1947

Other unknown photographers:

Grenzhausen, Germany
1st Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Division, 1919

209th Engineers, Camp Sheridan, Alabama, 1919

I have mixed feeling about the rise of "large scale mass photography" as an art form. Many "communal" ideas were taking shape at the start of the century, with majority of artists / sculptors not considering such experimentations as depersonalizing or evil. But look what the all-too-eager dictators did with "mass performance" art when they came to power in the Thirties. It became an integral part of the totalitarian art and ideological hysteria. The spiritual "unification" principle in the early works was perversely transformed into "cult" and even "occult" mass performances of frenzied crowds.

Living Masses of People as Totalitarian Art

You know of course about Nazi Torchlight Parades (documented during many Nazi Party Rallies in Nuremberg):

Some installation could be considered "inspired", even urban masterpieces, such as "The Light Cathedral" of Albert Speer and Eberhard von der Trappen, designed for the closing ceremonies of the 1936 Berlin Olympics:

(Source article)

But ultimately, we know the purpose behind Nazi party rallies, where de-humanizing mass movements (containing, some say, even elements of the occult rites) added to the whole political hysteria action.

Closer to our times: North Korean Parades

Totalitarian Esthetics at their "worst"...
Their own version of torchlight parades:

(image credit: Potatohai)

(image credit: Rodrigo Bravo)

Children are made to participate in such "cultural events" from a very young age".

Watch the giant human mosaic in the background, composed of 15,000 or more individuals each holding a colored placard. The mosaic changes with the music.
Children's Parade at Arirang / Mass Games in 2005:

"20,000 North Korean middle school students form an image of North Koreans with flip cards which become a gigantic human mosaic screen during the 100,000 men mass gymnastics performance":

(image credit: J. Chung)

These examples are the opposite of "living" photographs, as envisioned by Arthur Mole and others, as they deaden the individuality into one gray unrecognizable whole.

Opening ceremonies, Moscow Olympics, 1980.

Finally, a slightly shocking but fresh approach

Spencer Tunick makes his artistic formations from thousands of NAKED people. His works convey entirely different sensibilities than the usual group photography. According to Spencer, "the nude form becomes abstract due to the sheer number of people so closely placed together" - plus it places human body in stark contrast with the cold industrial landscapes.

The Wikipedia article lists in detail his latest international exploits, but here is the site where you can sign in to participate yourself, if you live close to the next planned installation. (this time it's Amsterdam).

700 naked people arranged in a theatre in Bruges:

(images courtesy: i-20.com)

Since 1992, Tunick has been arrested five times while working outdoors, but released shortly thereafter. You can order the prints of his work here. Wild idea: these happenings are organized, but nobody had the guts yet to set up the similar thing as a flash mob.

"StumbleUpon" this page

Permanent Link...
Category: Art,Photography
Related Posts:
Anti-US Posters from North Korea

Dark Roasted Blend's Photography Gear Picks:


Hellish Weather on Other Planets

Wild, Untamed, and Uncut

DRB Feel-Good Issue #33

Loads of cool and rare imagery

Medieval Suits of Armor

Metal Body Suits vs. Weapons of Medieval Destruction

"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"

DRB is a top-ranked and respected source for the best in art, travel and fascinating technology, with a highly visual presentation. Our in-depth articles in many categories make DRB a highly visual online magazine, bringing you quality entertainment every time you open your "feed" reader or visit our site - About DRB

Connect with us and become part of DRB on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus; make sure to subscribe to our updates.



Anonymous zxr said...

I dont see anything artistic in spencer tunick's works..

Blogger Roger Coss said...

From one of the pixels,
As a pixel in Spencer's work many times now I can say Spencer is very much trying to show the humanity of the models, though not the individuality-except in his portraits of individuals.
To read accounts by those of us who pose, to see more of Spencer's work, including some of his lesser known individual portraits, come to http://www.spencertunickforum.org


Blogger B. Durbin said...

I'm impressed. I work for a photography company, and you know how much of a pain in the butt it is to get a class of high school seniors to form something as simple as a 0 or a 7?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

No kidding... I have the same problem trying to line up two of my little boys.

Blogger B. Durbin said...

Of course, if we're talking flip cards, there's always the classic Caltech Rose Bowl Prank.

Incidentally, I highly recommend the book Legends of Caltech and its sequel More Legends of Caltech. Utterly chock-full of various pranks, as well as an apparent guide to those scriptwriters who created Real Genius.

Though I have to say that the ones a particular friend of the family was involved in were not written up, probably because nobody would break silence, and so there must be many more pranks which have never made it into print.

Anonymous yeeliberto said...

Check this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X76ZIGQgBWg

Another amazing coordinated koreans.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Air Force Photo: The other side of the story: On a hot Sat (our day off) we were told to put on white T shirts and fall out. We were marched to the drill field and told were to stand...and that is all. Some guy in a tower took our photos. Some time later these photos were for sale in the BX. Where we told anything...NO, did we get any free photos...NO were we even thanked...of course not we were all Pvt's. Pvt James R. Garrity, Sq BN 4, Fl 2100, Lackland AFB, Tex...some 61 years ago...of ya it was very hot out

Blogger Infographicmedia said...

If you like this you should realy see this Dutch commercial! Check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Uw7zLeacc

Anonymous David said...

Oh come on, zxr!! If you're going to criticise Tunic's work, give us some sort of an argument and explain why - then we can have a debate about it. As it is, you sound as though you expect Tunic to curl up and dissolve just because you have spoken! Personally, i think his cheeky works are fantastic and the fact that they goad people enough to get him arrested is illustration enough that he is making some kind of impact. This kind of re-evaluation and change in perception of the human body sounds very positive to me - all about appreciating humanity for what it is and not succumbing to the illusions. So here's to him!


Post a Comment

<< Home

Don't miss: The Ultimate Guide to NEW SF&F Writers!
Fiction Reviews: Classic Cyberpunk: Extreme Fiction
Short Fiction Reviews: Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" (with pics)
New Fiction Reviews: The Surreal Office


World's Strangest Theme Parks

Amusement to the (twisted) extremes!

Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Adorable Pedal Cars

Collectable Pedal Vehicles Showcase

Japanese Arcades: Gundam Pods & Other Guilty Pleasures

These machines have gone up to the next level

Modernist Tallinn Architecture

Delicious blend of old and new!

Early Supercomputers: A Visual Overview

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"

Futuristic Concept Cars of the 1970-80s

French, Italian & Japanese rare beauties

Epic 1970s French Space Comic Art

DRB Time-Slice: Valérian and Laureline

The Trees Are Escaping! The Abandoned Prison in French Guiana

"Great Escape" from the Devil's Island

Videophones from the Future Past

Skype? Smartphone? Google Hangouts?

The Best of DRB in 2014

Weird & Wonderful 2014 Overview

FULL ARCHIVES (with previews, fast loading):

Jan-Feb 2015 -- Nov-Dec 2014 -- Sep-Oct 2014 -- July-Aug 2014 --
June 2014 -- May 2014 -- April 2014 -- Feb-March 2014 --
January 2014 -- Oct-Dec 2013 -- September 2013 --
August 2013 -- July 2013 -- May-June 2013 -- April 2013 --
March 2013 -- February 2013 -- Dec-Jan 2013 --
November 2012 -- October 2012 -- September 2012 --
August 2012 -- July 2012 -- June 2012 -- May 2012 -- April 2012 --
March 2012 -- February 2012 -- Dec-Jan 2012 --
November 2011 -- October 2011 -- September 2011 --
August 2011 -- July 2011 -- June 2011 --
May 2011 -- April 2011 -- March 2011 --
February 2011 -- January 2011 -- December 2010 --
November 2010 -- October 2010 -- September 2010 --
August 2010 - July 2010 -- June 2010 --
May 2010 -- April 2010 -- March 2010 --
Winter 2009-2010 -- Oct-Nov 2009 -- September 2009 --
August 2009 -- June-July 2009 -- May 2009 --
April 2009 -- March 2009 -- February 2009 --
January 2009 -- December 2008 -- November 2008 --
October 2008 -- September 2008 -- August 2008 --
July 2008 -- June 2008 -- May 2008 --
April 2008 -- March 2008 -- February 2008 --
January 2008 -- Dec, 2007 -- November 2007 --
October 2007 -- September 2007 -- August 2007 --
July 2007 -- June 2007 -- May 2007 --
April 2007 -- March 2007 -- February 2007 --
January 2007 -- December 2006 -- November 2006 --
October 2006 -- Link Latte Issues -- Biscotti Issues

Feel-Good! | airplanes | animals | architecture | art | auto | boats | books | cool ads | funny pics | famous | futurism | food
gadgets | health | history | humour | japan | internet | link latte | military | music | nature | photo | russia | steampunk
sci-fi & fantasy | signs | space | sports | technology | trains | travel | vintage | weird | abandoned

Cool Ads
Extreme Weather
Funny Pics
Link Latte
Oops Accidents
Science Fiction

UE Abandoned

Avi Abrams
Rachel Abrams
M. Christian
Simon Rose
Paul Schilperoord
Scott Seegert
Constantine vonHoffman

Send us your topic ideas, site suggestions, rants or sweet unpublished poetry. We love to hear from you.

Naples Audubon Homes For Sale -friendly.