"On a stifling July day in 1918, 18,000 officers and soldiers posed as Lady Liberty on the parade [drill] grounds at Camp Dodge." (…) "According to a July 3, 1986, story in the Fort Dodge Messenger, many men fainted—they were dressed in woolen uniforms—as the temperature neared 105 degrees Farenheit [41 degrees Celsius]. The photo, taken from the top of a specially constructed tower by a Chicago photography studio, Mole & Thomas, was intended to help promote the sale of war bonds but was never used." (Grover 1987) source
Due to a perspective distortion, there are more men at the top of the Mole & Thomas photos, than there at the bottom. For example, in "Human Statue of Liberty" photo, the flame of the torch was formed with help of 2/3 of a total number of men available for the photoshoot. Roughly speaking, out of 18,000 people, the whole torch element took in 16,000 men, while the rest of the "statue" was formed only using 2,000 people.
Mole & Thomas were using 11 x 14 inch view camera, which was positioned on a 24-meters-high tower (80 feet). Firstly, the put the outlay (wireframe) of a desired image on a glass plate in Mr. Mole's camera. Then, with help of assistants, the image trace that was seen from the camera, was "transferred" to the ground beneath the tower. Armed with a megaphone and a long stick with a white flag on it (so it is seen from the distance), Mole was able to show the assistants how and where plot the curves of the desired image. The preparations for the shoot took several weeks and the actual positioning of people—several hours. I would say it was a pretty remarkable display of planning and logistics skills.
As one person, whose great grandfather took part in the photoshoot, explains the mistery behind the "Human Statue of Liberty":
"The design for the living picture was laid out at the drill ground at Camp Dodge, situated in the beautiful valley of the Des Moines River. Thousands of yards of white tape were fastened to the ground and formed the outlines on which 18,000 officers and men marched to their respective positions.
In this body of soldiers are any hundreds of men of foreign birth, born of parents whose first impression of the Land of Freedom and Promise was of the world's greatest colossus standing with beacon light at the portal of a nation of free people, holding aloft a torch symbolic of the light of liberty which the statue represents. Side by side with native sons these men, with unstinted patriotism, now offer to sacrifice not only their liberty but even life itself for our beloved country.
The day on which the photograph was taken was extremely hot and the heat was intensified by the mass formation of men. The dimensions of the platting for the picture seem astonishing. The camera was placed on a high tower. From the position nearest the camera occupied by Colonel Newman and his staff, to the last man at the top of the torch as platted on the ground was 1,235 feet, or approximately a quarter of a mile." source
"Arthur S. Mole (born 1889 in England - died 1983 in the United States) was an English commercial artist who 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." source
As Louis Kaplan, in "A Patriotic Mole: A Living Photograph" wrote: "Mole's photos assert, bolster, and recover the image of American national identity via photographic imaging. Moreover, these military formations serve as rallying points to support U.S. involvement in the war and to ward off any isolationist tendencies." source
Below are some of the other photos: