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Gelatin silver print
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Antony Penrose commented on this photograph "David E. Scherman who knew Eisenstaedt well told me Eisenstaedt had randomly asked the two who were not a couple to stage the kiss. They clearly enjoyed it and gave Eisenstaedt one of his best known images. It was not unusual for photographers to do a 'set up shot' but the rule was faking was OK if it conveyed the fact." (Facebook, 15 August 2014)
One of the original Life staff photographers, Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995) pioneered the use of the 35mm camera for photo-reportage in Germany while cementing his reputation as a photographer capable of making printable images in almost any time-based, assignment-driven situation. He produced over 2,000 people-oriented news assignments during his forty years with Life.
The woman being kissed was Greta Friedman who was a dental assistant wearing a nurse’s uniform. The sailor was George Mendonsa and his girlfriend, and later his wife, Rita Petrie can be seen on the left.
George Mendonsa, The Kissing Sailor in famous photograph, dies at 95, The Guardian (British newspaper), 18 February 2019
Interview with Greta Zimmer Friedman [8/23/2005], The Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Veterans History Project
(Accessed: 2 August 2019)
Greta Zimmer Friedman:
Well, I was working in a dental office on Lexington Avenue for two brothers, JD and JL Burke, and all morning long people would come in and say there seems to be rumors that the war is ending. And since I wasn't very far from Times Square, I could just walk over there and see for myself. And so after my bosses came back at 1:00 from their lunch hour, excuse me, I went straight to Times Square where I saw on the lighted billboard that goes around the building, V-J Day, V-J Day, and that really -- that really confirmed what the people have said in the office. And so suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back, I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war. And the reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded. And so I had to go back to the office, and I told my bosses what I had seen. And they said, Cancel all the appointments, we're closing the office. So they left, and I canceled all the appointments and went home.