About This Artwork

Mole & Thomas
Arthur S. Mole (American, born England, 1889–1983) and John D. Thomas (American, died 1947)

The Human Liberty Bell, 1918

Gelatin silver print
34 x 26.4 cm (image); 35.7 x 27.8 cm (paper)

Photographic Society Fund, 2008.204

During World War I, commercial photographer Arthur Mole partnered with John Thomas to make a series of "living photographs," arranging thousands of soldiers into designs that created optical illusions of patriotic themes such as the American flag, a profile of Woodrow Wilson, and the Statue of Liberty. Completing these massive spectacles required a week or more of preparation. Mole and Thomas spent hours positioning the troops and constructed an enormous tower from which to photograph the arrangement. The "top" of these creations could be as far as a quarter mile from the camera, and the final composition only made sense from the camera's pseudo-aerial point of view. To make The Human Liberty Bell, the photographers employed 25,000 military personnel at Camp Dix, New Jersey, a training ground for the 78th Division of the National Army. The composition made each posing soldier into a piece of the patriotic message.

— Permanent collection label




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