On August 14th 1945 Alfred Eisenstaedt captured what was to be his most famous photograph. 'V-J Day in Times Square' is a spontaneous moment of elation and excited energy following the announcement of the end of the war on Japan. You wouldn't know it from the photograph but this sailor and his nurse were total strangers. At one moment they were locked in an embrace and in the next they were lost in crowds of celebrations and anonymity. A sailor celebrating the victory by kissing strangers in the street (and rather forcefully) has become an iconic image. 'Kissing the war goodbye' has a beautiful poetry to it. But the image evokes passion and sentiment, it calls for other stories and the attachment of new meanings. So today these will be the lost lovers reunited for Christmas.
In 2005 John Seward Johnson created Unconditional Surrender, a sculpted version of the iconic kiss for a re-enactment in Times Square on the sixtieth anniversary of the event. These are photographs of a 25 feet tall version in aluminium and plastic displayed in San Diego by the naval base. Catching the fading light and shipwrecked by the sea, this immense sculpture made a powerful impression. Taken out of the photograph the couple can be circled and examined from every angle. They become dancers, dreamers, everything we want. They represent the American dream; the desire to keep those things that are important in the foreground, to make gestures bigger and in so doing increase their power.
'I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I'd hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn't been a nurse, if she'd been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn't have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor's dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.'
The Eye of Eisenstadt