#2 “V-J Day in Times Square” by Alfred Eisenstaedt (1945)

Alfred Eisenstaed's famous kiss in Times Square.

“V-J Day in Times Square” is a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt that portrays an American sailor kissing a young nurse in a white dress on V-J Day in Times Square on August 14, 1945.  It was published in Life magazine a week later, in which there were many other photographs picturing the victory among the country, even though, Eisenstaedt’s was the only one occupying a full-page display. This was excatly what the media was looking for (kissing poses), but casually, Eisestaed was photographing a spontaneous event that occurred in Times Square as the announcement of the end of the war on Japan was made by President Truman at seven o’clock.

Before analyzing deeper this beautiful picture, we have to figure out what was happening that day in U.S.A. V-J stands for Victory over Japan. V-J was the name chosen for the day on which the Surrender of Japan occurred, effectively ending World War II, and subsequent anniversaries of that event. And, of course, after such a marvelous announcement, lots of signs of happiness were made all over the country (among which was that kiss).

ALFRED’S VIEW:

In words of Alfred Eisestaedt: “In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make a difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds.

Another picture of the epic moment, but this time taken by U.S. Navy photo journalist Victor Jorgensen.

THE COUPLE’S VIEW:

Edith Shain a nurse who was working at Doctor’s Hospital in New York and who was told by a friend that World War II had ended. They went to Times Square where all the celebrating was, and as soon as she arrived on the street from the subway, the sailor grabbed her in an embrace and kissed her. Edith claimed to be the nurse in 1970. The sailor was George Mendonça, he was identified by a group of volunteers who by matching his scars and tattoos with the scars and tattoos in the picture determined that was him in 2005. Medoça was watching a film with his date, Rita, at Radio City Music Hall when the doors opened and people started screaming the war was over. George and Rita started partying in the streets, it was then when George saw a nurse walk by and took her into his arms and kissed her. “I had quite a few drinks that day and I considered her one of the troops—she was a nurse.” Said Mendoça. In one of the four pictures that Eisenstaedt took, Mendonça claims that Rita is visible in the background behind the kissing couple.

This photograph has of course become a symbol all over the world because of its spontaneity and the happiness that it emanates.

Bibliography:

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