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Wednesday, 17 August 2011


I always thought the quintessential Leica photographer was HCB. (As if that mattered...)

Mike and Ctein,

Great column (and Ctein, I was an undergrad at Caltech '85) so please keep up the good work!

Anyhow, not to delve on the mysteries of "local reality," but I remember reading very clearly the famous Eisenstaedt picture that you mentioned was staged. There was a very good Wall Street Journal editorial a few years ago written by the priest of the sailor after he died. I looked, but couldn't find it on the internet.

In brief, as I remember the story, the gentlemen in the picture was actually engaged at the time of the photo. Eisenstaedt asked them to pose repeatedly until he got just the right shot. Anyhow, when the sailor's fiance and her mother saw the photo, they thought for sure that it was him. To not break his fiance's heart, he repeatedly swore to her that it wasn't him. They got married and remained happily so until her death many years later. After his wife died, he confessed to the Priest who kept the secret until the sailor himself passed away. The Priest then wrote the article for the Wall Street Journal (in 2003?). And, as I recall, the uniforms in the picture don't match VJ day, but are from VE day (Life used the picture for the former).

Anyhow, despite this, Eisenstaedt was a great photographer no doubt.



"I always thought the quintessential Leica photographer was HCB."

That's what everybody thinks now. But Eisie used to be that guy where Leicas are concerned--the first name you'd think of when you thought of Leica shooters.


Over the years, reportedly more than thirty men claimed to have been the sailor in the photo. One who was accepted as such for a while was later discredited. LIFE magazine, if memory serves, even did a feature years after the fact profiling all the many men who swore the picture was of themselves.

As usual, I believe the photographer, whose testimony is head and shoulders more reliable than the purported priest of one more claimant to the title, deceased no less.


Thanks for making me look through my copies of "Remembrances" and "Eisenstaedt's Album" again :-)

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