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A 99 Year Old Example of Forced Perspective Photography [UPDATED]

A few months back we published a collection of Forced Perspective images which was very popular with readers.

Forced perspective is defined as ‘a technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is.’ (Wikipedia)

This is far from a recently popular thing for photographers to do. Here’s an amazing example from 1918 which was submitted by one of our readers – Graham Parkhurst – that illustrates it from 95+ years ago.


The picture is of 18,000 men preparing for war in a training camp at Camp Dodge, in Iowa.

A few facts about the image:

  • Length from base to Shoulder: 150 feet
  • Right Arm: 340 feet
  • Length of Torch and flame: 1000 feet
  • Total Length: 1490 Feet
  • Number of men in body and head of figure: 2,000
  • Number of men in right arm: 1,200
  • Number of men in torch: 2,800
  • Number of men in the flame only: 12,000
  • Total men: 18,000

When we’ve previously mentioned this photo we have had people say it is ‘fake’ but we have it on good authority it is real. Here’s a comment left by one of our readers with more information on how it was taken!

This is not a fake. It was one of a series of “Living Portraits” taken in 1918 by Arthur Mole and John D. Thomas who would spend a week or more on preparations for each photograph.

The photograph of the “Living Statue of Liberty” was actually intended to promote war bonds but was never used.They began by tracing the desired image on a ground-glass plate mounted on Mole’s camera.

Using a megaphone, body language, and a long pole with a white flag tied to the end to point to the more remote areas where the bulk of the troops had to be stationed, Mole would then position his helpers on the field as they nailed the pattern to the ground with miles of lace edging.

In this way, Mole also figured out the exact number of troops required. These steps were preliminary to the many hours required to assemble and position the troops on the day of shooting.

Some of their other portraits included “Living Portrait of Woodrow Wilson”, “Human Liberty Bell” and “Human US Shield”. Very impressive

Updated: below are 11 other living portraits by Arthur Mole and John D. Thomas to further illustrate their talents!




LivingUncleSam, LoRes





MPH 63, Human US Shield