Group Portraits

In 1918, photographer Arthur Mole engaged the nation’s military in a series of “living photographs.” After arranging cloth strips on a parade ground, he’d mount a 70-foot tower and shout orders through a megaphone, arranging thousands of men into formations that assumed patriotic shapes when viewed from the camera’s perspective. Shown here:

  • The Marine emblem, formed by 100 officers and 9,000 enlisted men at the Marine barracks in Parris Island, S.C.
  • The Statue of Liberty, 18,000 men, Camp Dodge, Iowa
  • Uncle Sam, 19,000 officers and men, Camp Lee, Va.
  • Woodrow Wilson, formed by 21,000 soldiers at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio
  • The U.S. shield, 30,000 officers and men, Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Mich.

According to a 1971 feature in Life, the men’s only compensation was “the base pay for the day, about $1, and the unique opportunity to write a letter home that began, ‘Dear Mom, today I was part of President Wilson’s left eyebrow.'”