Cole Thompson Photography

Issue 67

March 6th, 2015



Moai, Sitting for Portrait



In January of 2015 I spent two weeks photographing the Moai of Easter Island. This fulfilled a lifelong dream, one that started when I was 17 and read the book "Aku Aku" by Thor Heyerdahl. I became fascinated with the Moai and they have been on my mind and influenced my art for these many years.

As I traveled to Easter Island and tried to imagine what I would encounter, something interesting happened: I dreamt that I had invited the Moai to come and sit for a formal portrait.

When I awoke I thought "why not?"

I knew there would be challenges: the Moai are reserved, aloof and almost unapproachable. They had suffered greatly at the hands of outsiders and the question was: would they come to trust me?

Distance was the first hurdle to be overcome: the island is small by automobile standards, but when we are talking about the Moai who walk everywhere, traversing the island to get to my makeshift studio could be difficult. Then there was the Moai's physical condition: many were incapacitated by war and the ravages of time and could not make the journey. And how would I accommodate the size of the Moai, with some towering 33 feet tall?

Facing these challenges and armed with nothing more than a dream and hope, I issued the invitations...but would they come?

Initially only a few came; the younger and less suspicious ones. But slowly, as word spread of their experience, others started to arrive.

Photographing the Moai created some interesting situations: one older Moai refused to allow me to photograph his face and turned his back on the camera. Another arrived with a hawk and insisted on having his portrait taken with the bird atop his head. Several Moai with bullet holes inflicted by outsiders insisted that I document those scars.

And there were tense moments, as two rival Moai came together face-to-face in the studio, but which ended well when they agreed to be photographed together. And there were touching moments as old friends were reunited after years of separation.

The Moai are quiet, stoic and could even been described as "stone-faced." And it's true, not once was I able to photograph a Moai smiling, but instead they have a dignified poise that transcends time.




Moai, Sitting for Portrait



Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 1





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 38





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 29





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 27





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 25





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 19





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 7





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 4





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 39





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 36





Moai, Sitting for Portrait No. 33





View the Entire Portfolio Here











The next drawing will be for a copy of the book "Why Photographs Work" by George Barr. One of my images are featured in this very interesting book.


This is the third newsletter to feature this giveaway, so I'll be giving away three copies.


To enter the drawing; simply email me at and put "Why Photographs Work" in the subject line.  


But only enter once for this drawing for three books, please!


About Cole Thompson Photography


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