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Celebrating the Negative : Alfred Eisenstaedt by John Loengard


“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

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