I recently visited Palais De Tokyo in Paris, and would be lying if I’d gone there to see something specific. It was a nice day in the French capital, and I was keen to see the incredible building on the north side of the Seine river. Little did I know I was about to see some photos that would leave me startled. As part of the Spy Numbers exhibition, a set of photographs by Arthur Mole & John Thomas hung unassumingly on the far side of the chasmic main gallery – dying to be investigated. 30,000 people arranged in mind-bogglingly accurate rows to make up an image of Woodrow Wilson you say? Yes please.
Mole & Thomas’ images are universally brilliant. In that I mean that my mum and dad, or your average Joe could appreciate the craft, effort and dedication that has been siphoned into their creation. It’s when you find out the details surrounding the seemingly improbable photos that awe is struck. So, some facts:
1. The were taken at the beginning of the last century.
2. Obviously there was no Photoshop – they were made without the aid of any technological tricks. Simply a megaphone, a 80-foot viewing tower, a few flags and a camera (with an 11 × 14 inch viewfinder!)
3. Over 10,00 soldiers were needed for the smaller images, 30,000 for the more ambitious(!) ones.
4. These are of course not flat images, meaning Mole & Thomas had to work out the correct perspective to give the impression that the image was flat.
5. They were all made during World War I and served as rallying points, supporting American involvement in the war.
Enough said, marvel in their presence and if you’re in Paris before the end of October go and see some up close, you will not be disappointed.
Palais De Tokyo
13, Avenue Président Wilson
75016 Paris, France
Thanks to the American Library of Congress for the images