Photographer, Visual Artist
1889 – 1983
Who was Arthur Mole?
Arthur Samuel Mole was a British-born, naturalized American commercial photographer. He became famous for a series of "living photographs" made during World War I, in which tens of thousands of soldiers, reservists and other members of the military were arranged to form massive compositions. Although if viewed from the ground or from directly above, these masses of men would appear meaningless, when seen from the top of an 80-foot viewing tower, they clearly appeared to be various patriotic shapes. The key was to photograph the people from the one place where the lines of perspective would resolve themselves into intelligible images. His partner in this endeavor was John D. Thomas.
Mole immigrated to the United States with his family in 1902, when he was 13 years old. He worked as a commercial photographer in Zion, Illinois, north of Chicago. During World War I, he traveled to various Army, Marine and Navy camps to execute his massive compositions. He 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.