Love at First Shot

Caption from the August 27, 1945, issue of LIFE. "In the middle of New York's Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers."
Caption from the August 27, 1945, issue of LIFE. “In the middle of New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.”

Honestly, when someone thinks of a photograph that captures love this is usually it. It’s iconic. This famous kiss took place after the victory over Japan Day. It was taken August 14, 1945. I like this photograph because it’s candid and not like today’s candids where they’re planned candids, but the photographer spontaneously captures this photograph. After U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced the end of the war on Japan at 7 o’clock American citizens erupted in celebration- that is when this photograph was captured. Because the photographer, Eisenstaedt, was photographing rapidly changing events during the celebrations he did not have an opportunity to get the names and details- which leave us to make up our own stories through this picture.

While reflecting on the photograph and our photography week I wondered if it was just in the photographers nature to know what elements were around him in order to get this amazing photograph. I feel like the balance of color is so good and the background, line, and angles are just perfect. However the photographer only had a few second to capture this image so he couldn’t have planned it out.. then I came across this:

From Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt:

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.

Only one is right, on account of the balance. In the others the emphasis is wrong — the sailor on the left side is either too small or too tall. People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.

So he used his knowledge of photography to lead him to the subject, but all in all he was just in the right place at the right time.

This however is not the story I want to choose to believe. When I look at this photograph I think of a sailor who has just arrived home and its so overjoyed that the war is over and he can stay with the love of his life and they can start a family and life can go back to normal. When in reality he was just kissing a stranger in the streets. And not only that but one of many strangers he had kissed on the streets that day.

In another account the photographer says:

From The Eye of Eisenstaedt:

I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I’d hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn’t been a nurse, if she’d been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn’t have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor’s dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.

I guess the moral here is that not everything is what it seems. However, if my someday child comes across this photograph I will let him or her make the photo out to what he or she may want.

x Kelsey

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