WWI-era photos of people pretending to be patriotic pixels


Here's a selection of WWI-era photos showing large groups of people meticulously arranged to form pixels in enormous, low-rez patriotic images. They're from the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago.

PEOPLE PICTURES: The Art of the Conceptual Photograph 1915 - 1920 (via Neatorama)

17

  1. The planning that went into that is impressive…as is the sense that they all belonged to the same nation. We need to get that to back (this time with ALL of us, not just the white ones, yes?).

    1. That time is never coming back, thanks to near-ubiquitous global freedom of movement, and a proliferation of media that allows people to define ‘their’ community by nearly any criteria imaginable (as opposed to a handful of newspapers of record defining not only mass opinion on the news, but what the news is and isn’t , and how such news is categorized). The long tail applies to affiliations as well.

  2. Note how they’ve had to “unforce” the perspective. ISTR that there were more people in Liberty’t torch than her body.

  3. How did they get the people in the right places?

    All of the very large images look as though they have been perspective corrected for the camera view: they use a lot more people towards the top. You could do this if you projected the image backwards through the camera optics to give people an idea where to sit. I can’t see them producing a visible image on the ground, but if the people were to look at the camera lens, they may be able to see a spot of light that changed depending on where they stood. If you projected a coloured template, they could shuffle around until they saw a red, white, or blue spot.

    I expect the cameraman would still have to shout at a few people, but it would probably reduce the task to manageable proportions.

    1. I don’t think that they project the image onto the ground. Rather they probably project the image onto a table and use that to create a plan of where everybody should stand.

  4. You can also find a number of these at the Chicago History Museum in their photo catalog. If you don’t want to pay gallery prices, although Carl Hammer is a very good gallery, you can license the image for personal use and get a very good print made directly from the negative. Hell, you should go just to look through their collection of existing prints. The Mole and Thomas catalog is extensive and the other gems you’ll find are well worth the time investment.

    1. “Pretending to be Patriotic Pixels” is appealingly alliterative, which is surely good enough reason…

  5. Pixels? Really? Can’t you guys simply present cool/fun stuff like this without trying to awkwardly wedge some mis-applied tech hook into it?

    Cool pics, though. Sans pixels.

    1. “Pixels? Really? Can’t you guys simply present cool/fun stuff like this without trying to awkwardly wedge some mis-applied tech hook into it?”

      There’s no misapplication here. Pixels are simply points in a image. It’s pretty obvious that that’s what they were doing (even if the term wasn’t current at the time the photo was taken. (Anachronastic terms make it possible for me to discuss things that happened more than twenty years ago, so I’m cool with them.))

      I’m still confused about what they’re pretending to be, though.

  6. Garrison Keillor talks about doing this in Lake Woebegone – everybody puts on a red, white or blue hat, and then stands in the shape of the flag while some guy (probably one of those freakin’ Bunsons) snaps a picture from the church steeple. Oh yeah, good times …

  7. Hey! Didn’t think I would see this on Boing Boing. My great grandfather is in ‘The Living Uncle Sam.’ My aunt has a copy of the picture, I’ll have to ask her where he’s at in it.

  8. Garrison Keillor talks about doing this in Lake Woebegone – everybody puts on a red, white or blue hat, and then stands in the shape of the flag while some guy (probably one of those freakin’ Bunsons) snaps a picture from the church steeple. Oh yeah, good times …

    Actually, the gag is that the organiser of the “4th of July Human Flag” (a local businessman with a pile of hats he can’t sell – some red, some white, some blue) had no camera, so, after haranguing everyone into position, only he can see the result as he’s the guy on the stepladder. Then, after standing in position for an appropriately patriotic period, everybody else goes home without knowing what they looked like.

    Until, that is, the year of the mutiny…

  9. American entry into WWI was probably the single worst decision of the 20th century. By tipping the balance of power enough that an unconditional surrender could be demanded, it directly led to the Versailles treaty which directly led to Hitler and WWII.

    We entered the war on a wave of jingoistic, patriotic war propaganda financed by those who stood to financially benefit from the war (ie, the “war profiteers” making millions and billions selling military supplies and commodities).

    This is what this is. It is with blood money that this was organized. On the one hand it’s cool, on the other despicable.

  10. I was a part of one of those patriotic events when I was 5 years old. It was Commonwealth Day 1957. Narrabbeen Infants school (Sydney , Australia). There was the outline of the Union Jack painted on the asphalt playground,. Each of the children in the school had to wear a red white or blue crepe paper ‘hat’. we were all marched into position, then had to stand there for a while. I didn’t understand what it was about until a few years later. It was probably an educational ploy to make the children understand something about ‘belonging’. The children of course could not see themselves as a part of the flag. Neither could the watching parents see the ‘flag’ that we had become because they were also positioned at ground level. The Headmistress still called this half holiday ‘Empire Day’, and she and the deputy were the only ones able to see, from their position on a dias.

Comments are closed.