The Beauty and Strangeness of the World’s Colossal Statues

The Photo Blog
May 4 2014 11:04 AM

The Beauty and Strangeness of the World’s Colossal Statues

1 Dai Kannon. Sendai, Japan, 100m (330 ft). Built in1991
Sendai Daikannon, Sendai, Japan, built in 1991

Fabrice Fouillet

The political, religious, and ideological monuments in photographer Fabrice Fouillet’s series “Colosses” stagger with their extreme dimensions. But Fouillet is not concerned with hugeness for its own sake. He’s more interested in how oversized statues, despite their extraordinary proportions, fit in the landscape around them and, as he writes in LensCulture, the reasons for the “human-sized desire behind these gigantic declarations.” 

The humans in Fouillet’s photos—miniscule and appearing infrequently—serve to emphasize the monuments’ sizes. “I wanted human figures in the pictures because by definition the creature and its creator go together. There is also the opposition of the lasting and the living, of the stone and the flesh, of power and vulnerability,” he said via email.

Undoubtedly, many of the humans that appear in the photographs were busy taking their own photos of the monuments. But Fouillet’s images distinguish themselves from those snapshots by capturing the statues away from their designed environments and incorporating them into the larger landscape. “One subject can tell as many stories as there are people photographing it. The most important thing is to find the right point of view, to achieve the expected effect,” he said.

12 Guan Yu Statue. Yuncheng, China, 80 meters ( 262 ft) Built in 2010
Guan Yu, Yuncheng, China, built in 2010

Fabrice Fouillet

4 Mao Zedong. Changsha, China, 32 m (105 ft). Built in 2009
Mao Zedong, Changsha, China, built in 2009

Fabrice Fouillet

6 African Renaissance Monument. Dakar, Senegal, 49 m (161 ft). Built in 2010
African Renaissance Monument, Dakar, Senegal, built in 2010

Fabrice Fouillet


While the largest statues in Fouillet’s series might inspire the most awe, Fouillet often found himself drawn to modestly sized statues, like Christ Blessing in Manado City, Indonesia, because of their style and position in the landscape. Aesthetics aside, Fouillet was intrigued by the context in which each statue was erected. “For example, the African Renaissance Monument in Dakar has set off so many scandals and polemics, between the moment it was designed and its actual achievement, that it might be particularly interesting,” he said.

Another of Fouillet’s series, “Corpus Christi,” focuses on the architecture of places of worship, while “Eurasisme” is a study of Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana, through its buildings. Architecture, Fouillet said, inspires him. “I feel close to the geometric precision typical of architecture. I am mostly drawn to very elaborate photographs and architecture lends itself well to this type of creations. I also like the fact that it enables us to tend towards more minimal or abstract pictures,” he said.

After a year of traveling, Fouillet still has three monuments left to photograph. The last of which, India’s yet to be completed Statue of Unity, will be the tallest in the world—twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. “I think the proliferation of huge statues from the 1990s on falls within this continued belief in teaching through example. They are typical of an eagerness to teach by using great men and their memory to illustrate important lessons,” Fouillet said.

18 Ataturk Mask. Buca, Izmir, Turkey, 40 m (132 ft). Built in 2009
Ataturk Mask, Buca, Izmir, Turkey, built in 2009

Fabrice Fouillet

8 Christ the King. Świebodzin, Poland, 36 m (120 ft). Built in 2010
Christ the King, Świebodzin, Poland, built in 2010

Fabrice Fouillet

14 The Motherland Call. Volgograd, Russia,87 m (285 ft).Built in 1967
The Motherland Calls, Volgograd, Russia, built in 1967

Fabrice Fouillet

9 Grand Byakue. Takazaki, Japan, 42 m (137 ft). Built in 1936
Grand Byakue Kannon, Takazaki, Japan, built in 1936

Fabrice Fouillet

2 Mother of the Fatherland. Kiev, Ukraine, 62 m (203 ft). Built in1981
Mother of the Fatherland, Kiev, Ukraine, built in 1981

Fabrice Fouillet

5 Christ Blessing. Manado, Indonesia, 30 m (98.5 ft). Built in 2007
Christ Blessing, Manado City, Indonesia, built in 2007

Fabrice Fouillet



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.