Captivating the photo: the true story of the kiss in Times Square

  • Alfred Eisenstadt was a pioneer in photojournalism. And the most famous picture of a couple accepting the news of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II
  • Years later, the characters of the portrayed couple could be identified. It turns out that they don’t know each other at all. “The guy walked in and grabbed her. The guy was so strong. I didn’t kiss him. He kissed me.”
  • “He grabbed every woman he found and kissed them all – young girls and old ladies” – the author of the portrait stated in his written diary
  • “I drank a lot of drinks that day and decided that she was also one of the soldiers. But she was a nurse” – said the man years later
  • On the same day, another photographer took a picture of the same couple
  • You can find more of these stories on the Onet homepage

77 years ago, World War II ended in Europe. The surrender of Germany marked the end of a six-year struggle. But that did not mean liberating the continent from the rule of tyranny.

After Japan’s surrender was announced, after four years of blackouts, all the lights were on in New York’s Times Square – and thousands of Americans took to the streets to celebrate a new era of peace and hope. On that day, one of the most famous photographs symbolizing the end of the war was taken. Its author, Alfred Eisenstadt, the father of “photojournalism” today, immortalized a couple kissing on the street with a film. Years later, it was not only possible to identify the young people who were immortalized, but also to discover behind the scenes of one of the most famous kisses in the history of photography.

Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt/DPA/PAP

Famous portrait of Alfred Eisenstadt

“Catch every girl in sight”

The famous image, which has become a cultural symbol over time, shows a US Navy sailor holding hands and kissing a strange woman in a white dress. The photo was taken on the day of the victory over Japan on August 14, 1945 known as Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day). According to Donald W. Olson and his team, the photo was taken at 5:51 p.m. EDT. A few days later, the photograph was published in Life, an American magazine published since 1883. The Eisenstadt picture was one of many images of the American celebration of the end of the war.

The photo is included in the “Victory Celebrations” section. The photo was reportedly taken with a Leica IIIa camera. The same photographer mentioned that day as follows:

Eisenstadt mentioned it in one of the books he published. In the second post he wrote:

As he himself emphasized, the photo shoot would never have been possible without one detail: the attractive white color of the nurse’s dress.

White dress

“I was running in front of him with Laika, and looking over my shoulder, but none of the possible pictures satisfied me. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I saw someone grab something white. I turned and took the picture just as before the nurse sailor.” If she was wearing a dark dress, I would never have taken that picture. If the sailor wore a white uniform, it would be the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done in seconds, “- the photographer reported.

According to the author of the images, of the four resulting images, “only one was correct, due to balance.” As he admitted himself, he did not like “bad accents” on others.

Another photographer caught the kiss too

Interestingly enough, the iconic frame did not go unnoticed by another photographer who was in Times Square in New York that day. US Navy photojournalist Victor Jorgensen was also present.

The guy managed to capture a different scene of the same scene – his work was published the next day in the New York Times. Jorgensen called his photograph “Kissing the War Goodbye”.

This photo – due to the fact that its author was a serving federal government employee – is now in the public domain.

Photo: press material

“Farewell to Kissing War” by Victor Jorgensen

I didn’t accept it

Decades later, an unknown couple were identified as American sailor George Mendons and nurse Greta Zimmer Friedman, who was 21 in the iconic photo history and worked as a dental assistant.

When a young girl hears the news of Japan’s surrender and that World War II is about to end, she goes to Times Square, where she is captured by a passing sailor against her will. “I didn’t notice, and before I knew it, I was in this hug,” the woman said in an interview with CBS News ten years ago, in 2012.

– You remember.

In 2010, there were bloggers who challenged the current interpretation of the moment being held in the framework and He began referring to iconic photography as documentation of a “natural sexual assault”. The pose captured in the photo has also been described as emblematic of the era of rape culture.

Friedman lived at the age of 92, and died on September 8, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. She is buried next to her husband, infantry soldier Misha Elliot Friedman, at Arlington National Cemetery. She never wanted to participate in the reconstruction of the image.

The 22-year-old is on vacation…with future wife

The seas that accepted Greta was only a year older than her. George Mendons, 22, of Newport, Rhode Island, was on vacation that day and was watching a movie with his future wife Rita in Radio City’s Music Hall when the door opened and people started screaming that the war had just ended. When the young couple could not get to any of the crowded bars, they decided to walk down the street. At that time, George saw a 21-year-old passing by in a white dress that caught his eye as well.

“I had a lot of drinks that day and I thought she was one of the soldiers too. But she was a nurse.” – He called up George after years.

In 1987, Mendonca sued TIME in Rhode Island state court, claiming that both TIME and Live infringed his advertising rights by using the image without his permission. Citing legal costs, Mendonca withdrew his lawsuit a year later.

Mendonca passed away on February 17, 2019, at the age of 95, two days before his 96th birthday.

kiss with tradition

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images/Getty Images

Sidnor Thompson, 90, kisses his wife Harriet Thompson, 91, while recreating an iconic photo.

The portrait of Alfred Eisenstaedt not only became a cultural icon and entered the history of photography – it also had its own traditions.

On August 14, 2014, exactly on the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II and the victory over Japan, an event was held in Times Square in New York City, where hundreds of couples reconstructed the famous film. A monument recreating the famous image was also unveiled.

Photographer from Tczew

Photo: Ben Martin/Getty Images/Getty Images

Alfred Eisenstadt in 1966.

What is worth mentioning, Alfred Eisenstadt – although made history as a German and American photographer – was born in Tczew, exactly on December 6, 1898. The city was then operating under the name Dirschau, since the time of the first partition of Poland under Prussian rule. He was fascinated by photography from an early age. He got his first Kodak camera from his uncle.

As a result of the spread of National Socialism in Germany, Eisenstadt decided to emigrate and in 1935 went to America, where he lived until his death. To this day, he is considered one of the pioneers of reportage photography. During his career, he has portrayed well-known figures in politics and culture, including: Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, as well as W. Churchill, GF Kennedy and F.D. Roosevelt. Author of 92 covers and 2,500 illustrations for “Life” magazineWhere his most famous photo was also published.

In 2009 the artist was memorialized in Chizu during a historical session titled “Tracking Unknown Monuments in Chizu and its Surroundings”. There is also a mural in Tczew with the famous portrait of the photographer.

Eisenstadt died in August 1995 at the age of 97, at his home on his favorite island, Martha’s Vineyard, where he spent half a century each summer.



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