Have you ever kissed a stranger? More importantly, have you ever been photographed by a stranger while kissing a stranger? Hmm, strange.
On the day World War II ended, New Yorkers triumphed in Manhattan’s Times Square. A young lad in a dark sailor’s suit, in particular, had been literally grabbing and kissing all females in sight – young girls and old ladies alike. LIFE magazine’s German-American photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was running with his Leica camera as he followed the whereabouts of the dandy stranger.
A young lass, on the other hand, in an all-white nurse’s uniform was standing in the rowdy crowd. Without much ado, the sailor, who was still searching for females to kiss, snatched the nurse and squarely planted his lips on hers. Amidst the soar of the day’s victory and the eyes of all New Yorkers, Eisenstaedt snapped the kissing strangers’ photograph which is now world-widely known as the V-J Day in Times Square or, sometimes, The Times Square Kiss.
The black and white contrast of the lovebirds’ attire made the photograph even more meaningful. Although it seemed as if she was clutching down her skirt, it is unnoticeable that the two barely knew each other. Immediately after Eisenstaedt took their picture, they parted their own ways and their names were not claimed.
This photograph instantly became a hit because it perfectly and visually portrayed the joyous end of America’s long struggle. It became an exemplary part of pop culture. In 2005, a reenactment was held to commemorate the event’s 60th anniversary and a giant-sized sculpture of the kissing strangers was built and displayed in Times Square. Thus, it became the legendary kiss seen around the world.
Which other photographs do you think are influential? Post a hyperlink to the image in the comments – if you know it, please include the photographer’s name and the year the photo was taken.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.