English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is there a term for a group of people arranged in such a way as to appear from an aerial vantage as a specific shape, picture or word?


Peace sign


share|improve this question
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The term you're looking for is crowd formation.

You will also find this term returns an acceptable range of pictures when searching.

share|improve this answer

The phrase "tableau vivant" which is French for "living picture "is defined in Wikipedia as

The term describes a striking group of suitably costumed actors or artist's models, carefully posed and often theatrically lit. Throughout the duration of the display, the people shown do not speak or move. The approach thus marries the art forms of the stage with those of painting/photography, and as such it has been of interest to modern photographers.

The phrase is often shortened to "tableau".

Originally meant as a formation to be viewed from the front, perhaps "aerial tableau" would address your need.

share|improve this answer

This kind of photography was pioneered by Arthur Mole (a gallery of 24 of his pictures can be found here).

The Wikipedia article refers to the pictures as performed group photography or "living photographs" (with quotes).

Indeed, a Google Image Search for "performed group photography" returns lots of relevant results, and a textual search returns more relevant results than one for "crowd formation".

Liberty Bell American Eagle

share|improve this answer

Wouldn't it just be called a "formation" (like in [American] football)?

share|improve this answer
That's all well and good but doesn't help me search for them on Google Images. – WAF Jan 2 '11 at 23:33

I don't know, but I would suggest a "busby", after the master of that particular art ("berkeley" probably has unwanted connotations). See here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Busby_Berkeley

share|improve this answer
What does "berkeley" connote? – WAF Jan 2 '11 at 23:29
@WAF - Berkeley is short for "berkeley hunt", which is rhyming slang. Perhaps I ought not to have said anything... – Brian Hooper Jan 3 '11 at 9:13

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.