V-J Day in Times Square  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

V-J Day in Times Square[1] is a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt that portrays an American sailor kissing a young woman in a white dress on V-J Day in Times Square on August 14, 1945. The photograph was originally published a week later in Life magazine among many photographs of celebrations around the country that were presented in a twelve-page section called Victory. A two-page spread faces three other kissing poses among celebrators in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and Miami, Florida opposite Eisenstaedt's, which is given a full page display. Kissing was a favorite pose encouraged by media photographers of service personnel during the war, but Eisenstaedt was photographing a spontaneous event that occurred in Times Square as the announcement of the end of the war on Japan was made by President Truman at seven o'clock. Similar jubilation spread quickly—with the news.

The photograph is known under various titles, such as V-J Day in Times Square and V-Day.

The official United States celebration is not on this date, however. V-J Day is instead celebrated on September 2, the date of the formal signing of the surrender. A special day of remembrance is marked in Japan and other countries on September 2, as well.

Because Eisenstaedt was photographing rapidly changing events during the celebrations he didn't have an opportunity to get the names and details. The photograph does not clearly show the faces of either person involved in this embrace and several people have claimed to be the subjects. The photograph was shot just south of 45th Street looking north from a location where Broadway and Seventh Avenue converge. Soon afterward, throngs of people crowded into the square and it became a sea of people.

The photograph in popular culture

In 2005, John Seward Johnson II displayed a bronze life-size sculpture, Unconditional Surrender, at an August 14, 2005 sixtieth-anniversary reenactment at Times Square of the event made famous in Eisenstaedt's photograph. His statue was featured in a ceremony that included Edith Shain, shown holding a copy of the photograph, and George Mendonça as participants. Shain refused to allow him to kiss her in the same fashion as in the image, however. Johnson also sculpted 25-feet-tall versions in plastic and aluminum, which have been displayed in several cities, including San Diego (right) and Sarasota.

In the 2009 film, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a life-size blow-up of the photograph plays an important role when characters Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) escape pursuers by jumping into it and emerging in a monochrome 1945 Times Square, and losing a cell phone, which catches the attention of one of the background sailors.

The picture is parodied in the 2009 film, Watchmen which depicts alternate history versions of iconic moments in American history. During the opening credits, The Silhouette, a female "costumed hero", replaces the sailor in the famous picture after coming upon the nurse in Times Square during the VJ Day celebrations. In a later scene, the pair are found brutally murdered.

In the 2010 film, Letters to Juliet, the Eisenstaedt photograph is featured in a scene where an editor of the New Yorker questions Sophie about her fact-checking (her job there) of the image as if it would be published in that magazine as a full page feature. He questions her closely about whether the photograph was staged and most importantly whether it truly was "spontaneous and romantic." Sophie gives him several pieces of information obtained from a sailor in the background of the photograph. She assures the editor that all of these facts were thoroughly checked and found to be correct, so he need have no concern.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "V-J Day in Times Square" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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