The Designer as Global Cartographer

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


Amid artifacts from United States Navy (USN) operations during World War II (WWII) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a collection of photographs produced by Norman Bel Geddes. Titled a “Mock Version” of the Battle of Midway, Bel Geddes’s photographs, frame by frame, give a visual history of the United States’ naval victory against Japanese forces on June 3–6, 1942. Using the same model building techniques Bel Geddes had perfected with Futurama, he simulated the Pacific battlefield with a tabletop stage, theatrical lighting, precisely carved miniatures of naval ships, and various materials used to suggest smoke plumes, engine wakes, and torpedo paths on the ocean’s surface. Framed and shot from an aerial perspective, the photographs realistically simulated the battle’s intricate sequence of attacks between enemy fleets. Quite literally, Bel Geddes had constructed a theatre of war, a means by which he could design and document the Midway battle as well as a variety of other battle scenarios from the Pacific war.


Stage Designer Model Photograph Production Team Modern Warfare Visual History 
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© Christin Essin 2012

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