“I will be remembered when I’m in heaven,” says Alfred Eisenstaedt. “People won’t remember my name, but they will know the photographer of that picture of that nurse being kissed by a sailor at the end of World War II. Everybody remembers that.” (It’s not his favorite picture; he prefers one he took in Milan at La Scala Opera in 1934.)
When the news came of the Japanese surrender in 1945, Eisenstaedt rushed a few blocks from the offices of Life magazine to photograph the celebration in Times Square. He spotted one sailor who was kissing everyone in sight—long kisses that allowed a photographer time to get off several shots.
But the question is: which sailor? At last count more than 40 men (some with their lawyers) have claimed to be in the picture. So have at least half a dozen former nurses. Eisenstaedt doesn’t know, and the young reporter who was supposed to get the names of those he photographed couldn’t keep up with the 47-year-old photographer. “I darted through the crowd like a weasel,” he says.
Negative editors notched the edges of the film (now covered with transparent tape for safety) to indicate by touch which frames Life’s darkroom technicians should print on 8 x 10 inch paper and which to make on 11 x 14 inch paper for editors to see the next day.
John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance.
Celebrating the Negative
by John Loengard
Release in 1994
Published by Arcade Publishing