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Banning Eisenstaedt's "V-J Day in Times Square": Is This a Joke?

V-J Day in Times Square
V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt [1]

In an era when society appears to be engaging in a bizarre competition to outdo itself in terms of "wokeness," the recent debacle over the iconic "VJ Day in Times Square" photograph serves as a perfect case study. The photograph, depicting an American sailor passionately kissing a nurse in the jubilant aftermath of World War II, is as legendary as it is contentious. The image, captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt, has become emblematic of the exuberance marking the end of a global conflict. Yet, in a bewildering turn of events, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) considered banning it from its facilities, citing concerns about its non-consensual nature.

Is this a joke? Sadly, no.

Fortunately, common sense has prevailed, and the VA has walked back its decision to ban the photo.

A Symbol of Victory or a Sin of the Past?

Let's pause for a moment to consider the absurdity. This photograph, celebrated for decades, is now under scrutiny for its depiction of a spontaneous kiss. George Mendonsa, the sailor, had never met Greta Friedman, the nurse, before that fateful moment. Critics argue that the kiss was non-consensual, a snapshot of male dominance overshadowing a woman's autonomy. It's a valid concern in today's context, where issues of consent and respect are rightly emphasized. But here's the rub: applying modern sensibilities to historical events is a slippery slope.

The Context and Significance of the Photograph

The photograph was taken on August 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, marking the victory over Japan and the end of World War II. The streets of Times Square were filled with people celebrating the end of years of global conflict, suffering, and sacrifice. The kiss between Mendonsa and Friedman symbolized more than just a personal moment; it captured the collective relief and unrestrained joy of a nation and world finally at peace. It represented a spontaneous outpouring of emotion that was shared by millions around the globe.

Alfred Eisenstaedt signing a copy of the photograph: "VJ Day in Times Square"
Alfred Eisenstaedt signing a copy of the photograph: "VJ Day in Times Square" [2]

The Gravitas of Historical Art

Art, whether it’s a photograph, painting, or sculpture, is a reflection of the era in which it was created. It encapsulates the emotions, values, and ethos of its time. The "VJ Day in Times Square" photograph is not just a picture; it's a historical artifact. It represents the collective sigh of relief, the unbridled joy, and the spontaneous human connections that marked the end of a devastating war. Erasing or censoring this image would be akin to whitewashing history itself.

Too much wokeness, in this context, becomes not just overzealous but counterproductive. When we start scrutinizing every piece of historical artwork through the lens of contemporary values, we risk losing the essence and lessons of those historical moments. Historical artwork holds immense gravitas for human civilization. It educates, it provokes thought, and most importantly, it reminds us of where we came from.

The Irony of Modern Censorship

Imagine a future where every artwork is purged of anything that might offend. The Louvre would be empty. Michelangelo's David would be draped in modest clothes. Hemingway's novels would be reduced to pamphlets. The richness of human experience and expression is filtered and sanitized into oblivion.

It's ironic that in our quest to be more inclusive and respectful, we often end up being exclusive and dismissive of the past. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of political correctness that we risk obliterating the very fabric of our shared history.

A Call for Balance

While it's crucial to address the issues of our time, it’s equally important to strike a balance. Acknowledging the complexities of historical figures and events without erasing them allows us to learn and grow. The "VJ Day in Times Square" photograph should remain on display, not as an endorsement of non-consensual acts, but as a testament to a moment in history that, like all history, is imperfect.

To ban the photograph is to deny the very real emotions and context of the time it was taken. It would be a disservice to the memory of those who lived through those times and to future generations who deserve an unfiltered understanding of history.


In conclusion, banning "The Kiss" photograph is not just a joke; it’s a symptom of a larger issue. It represents a misguided attempt to sanitize history at the cost of erasing it. Thankfully, the VA's decision to retract the ban allows us to appreciate our past with all its imperfections and, in doing so, foster a more nuanced and informed appreciation of our present.

What is your take on that? Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts down below in the comments.

[1] - Fair use, [2] - By William Waterway Marks - Private collection, William Waterway Marks, CC BY-SA 3.0,

4 Kommentare

Well Eizii told me that the first picture was blurred so he corralling the couple and took the famous shot. This was in the early/middle 80s on Martha’s Vineyard at the Gray Barn.

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