V-J Day by Alfred Eisenstaedt | Contact Sheets

It is one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century: a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in August 1945.

Contrary to popular belief, the photo did not appear on the cover of LIFE. It was featured, however, in full page of its own inside (Page 27 of the August 27, 1945, issue) as part of a larger, multi-page feature: “Victory Celebrations.”

Alfred Eisenstaedt had two slightly different remembrances of that iconic day. In Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt (1985), he said:

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.

In The Eye of Eisenstaedt (1969), he recalled differently:

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.

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5 thoughts on “V-J Day by Alfred Eisenstaedt | Contact Sheets

  1. Not sure if you know this, but a wonderful book came out this year that details the lives of the two people in the photograph and how they came to be in that iconic picture.

    1. The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi
      Publication Date: May 15, 2012
      ISBN-10: 1612510787
      Hardcover: 224 pages
      Publisher: Naval Institute Press; First Edition edition (May 15, 2012)

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