Time/Life reports that it is their most valued commodity, a photograph that is requested and reprinted more than any other from the archive and – we might add – has been celebrated almost as much as Joe Rosenthal’s “Raising Old Glory on Iwo Jima.” It is, of course, Alfred Eisenstadt’s “Times Square Kiss.” Part of the allure of the photograph is that the kissers are anonymous: They could be everywoman/everyman. Robert and I have written about this photograph in several places, including the namesake for this blog, talking about the power that the image has for civic renewal, but it never ceases to amaze us how entranced the culture is with “who” the “real” kissers are and the incredible lengths to which we go to make the determination. In the 1980s Life magazine sponsored a national search for the sailor and nurse. According to Life the search was “inconclusive,” but that hasn’t stopped everyone from the Dean of the School of Art at Yale to the Naval War College in Rhode Island and a high tech electronics imaging firm in Cambridge, MA from getting into the fray.
Now, Lois Gibson, Houston Police Department forensic artist and Guinness Book of World Records “Most Successful Forensic Artist” reports that the kisser is actually 80 year old Glen McDuffie:
Gibson’s method was to have McDuffie don his uniform and pose for new pictures, using “a pillow instead of a nurse.” After measuring his “ears, facial bones, hairline, wrist, knuckles and hand” she compared them with the original photograph. Her conclusion, “I could tell just in general that, yes, it’s him … But I wanted to be able to tell other people, so I replicated the pose.” According to the news report, “Life magazine isn’t convinced.” Neither are we. But we are convinced that the photograph remains a cultural treasure, precisely because people like McDuffie—and no doubt the many who will show up at the August 14, 2007 “kiss-in“—can can see themselves as part of this national imaginary.
Photo Credit: Pat Sullivan/AP
Update: The New York Times has posted a story on the photo at their City Room, and a discussion is developing there.