A large crowd gathers to welcome Yugoslav leader Tito during his visit to Russia, 1956.
A large crowd gathers to welcome Yugoslav leader Tito during his visit to Russia, 1956.Lisa Larsen—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
A large crowd gathers to welcome Yugoslav leader Tito during his visit to Russia, 1956.
A crowd in Russia, 1956.
Crowd at Lenin Stadium during a sports festival, with some holding flowers for the winning athletes, 1956.
A crowd of people watch track events in Russia, 1956.
Russian boys line up to see visiting French Prime Minister Guy Mollet, 1956.
Russian woman eyes a rhinestone bracelet at a display of British fashions, 1956.
Women shoppers at the biggest state department store in Warsaw, Poland, looking at bras from East Germany, 1956.
Audience, Mongolia, 1956.
Fans of Fred Allen on street during memorial service for the humorist and entertainer, New York, 1956.
Crowd, Indonesia, 1956.
New American citizens take oath during a mass naturalization ceremony, New York, 1954.
Crowd of people gathers for politician Vito Marcantonio's funeral, New York, 1954.
Frenzied shoppers crowd around a busy cashier during a department store sale, New York, 1954.
Parents cheer during a school bean bag race, 1953.
A crowd of people in lower Manhattan looking up at a hornbill bird on a Wall Street building, New York, 1953.
A crowd in Normandy, France, on the 8th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings.
Shocked neighbors line the street waiting for Arnold Schuster's casket to be carried from funeral home, New York, 1952. Schuster, an amateur detective, was instrumental in the capture of bank robber Willie Sutton, and was murdered by members of the Gambino crime family.
A crowd gathers outside a New York City beauty salon, 1950, as inside the famous Dione Quintuplets get their hair done.
A large crowd gathers to welcome Yugoslav leader Tito during his visit to Russia, 1956.
Lisa Larsen—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Lisa Larsen's Curiously Intimate Crowd Photos

May 01, 2013

Lately, crowds are everywhere. Or rather, crowdsourcing is everywhere — a notion and a process that's increasingly heralded as a way to address societal ills and cultural threats ranging from traffic jams to terrorism. James Surowiecki's 2005 bestseller, The Wisdom of Crowds, brought the discussion of crowds and their behavior into the mainstream in an utterly new and (for the uninitiated) approachable way, while "democratic journalism" sites like Reddit and Newsvine employ crowds, i.e., site users, to cull and distribute what the crowd deems relevant information to millions of people around the Web and around the world, instantaneously.

Despite the star power now enjoyed by the many, though, the idea of what a crowd looks like remains both fluid, and contradictory. Is a crowd a mob? An audience? A rally? A "sample population"? All of those things? None of those things? And more critically, when does a crowd cease to be a collection of individuals, and morph into something more (or something less)?

Photographer Lisa Larsen cut gently and firmly through all of those questions by somehow finding a way to make pictures of crowds that both captured the energy of multitudes (and smaller gatherings) while making sure that individual faces weren't lost in the mix. This gallery features some of her very best crowd photos.

Larsen herself was a remarkable individual — a German-born prodigy, of sorts, she moved to the States with her family in the 1930s, graduated from college when she was just 17, and went on to photograph for publications as diverse as Glamour, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue and, of course, LIFE. When she died in 1959 at the age of 34, of breast cancer, LIFE eulogized Larsen this way:

Lisa Larsen liked people. And because, while being thoroughly professional, she was a very attractive person the people she photographed came to like her too.... In Russia in 1956, Khrushchev developed such admiration for her and her indefatigable work habits that he gave her a bouquet of peonies. Later she inspired an aside from Khrushchev during one of his cocky anti-Western speeches. "Don't misunderstand me, " he said, eying her in the audience. "There is an American girl standing in front of me. Americans are good people."

Last week Lisa Larsen died. In 10 years with LIFE she had made a brilliant name for herself and won a shelf full of photographic awards. [Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1953 and '58; Overseas Press Club award for her work in Mongolia and in Poland; etc. Ed.'s note] Her colleagues on LIFE — photographers, reporters, writers, editors — share the never-flagging interest she had in people. They will try to fill the gap, but they will sadly miss her vivacity and warmth.

Photographer Lisa Larsen in 1949 photographed by Rodney Williams in New YorkRodney Williams—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images 
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