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March 1, 2009

Hooray, The War Is (Going To Be) Over!

lijiejun kiss.jpg

I wanted to return to the World Press Photo winners and, especially, Li Jiejun’s third-place award for “Icons of war photography.” (Here’s the page with the series. Especially note the Iwo Jima image.)

At the risk of some redundancy — given our look earlier this week at Brooks Kraft’s miniaturized State of the Union — I’m interested in your take on this composition to reproducing the famous V-J day kiss. I’ve had this photo and series in mind for a couple of weeks now, thinking about the contrast and irony between America’s emergence from WWII and the Iraq segment of Bush’s World War.

  • vcInCA

    i like it. its immediately obvious that it is an ironic take on the V-J shot, especially with the girls in the background, & their over the shoulder interest. given that the former was (exuberantly) celebrating the end of a war, using silly plastic figures suggests that this war (whichever they mean, i don’t see any way to read it as iraq vs. afghanistan, or really, vs. other wars that currently going on) isn’t over, whatever celebration we will have (ala Bush’s aircraft carrier declaration) will be hollow & just not true. in short, it tells us that other wars weren’t over just b/c we celebrated their end (both literally, in that fighting often continues, and metaphorically, b/c the soldiers and civilian casualties we’ve experienced don’t really leave us, and we shouldn’t be as naive as to hope that saying ‘war’s over’ will make their deaths truly feel justified).

  • Lucaites

    As Bob Hariman and I have written in our book No Caption Needed, this image is often mimed and appropriated to a wide range of purposes, some quite pious and others quite cynical. This image is complicated in this regard since, of course, it is about China and not the contemporary US (although articulating the two in the image is culturally interesting and really worthy of some note). Here is a post we did a No Caption Needed last year on an appropriation of the Eisenstadt photograph that comes closer to addressing the Bush War: We cal it “Kissing War and Tasting Victory”:

  • cenoxo

    …America’s emergence from WWII and the Iraq segment of Bush’s World War.
    In many ways, America’s emergence from World War II was really its doorway into the rest of the World and its economy. If Mao was right in 1938 when he said that “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”, imagine what happens when it’s projected off the end of aircraft carriers?
    As Obama escalates American troop strength and fighting in Afghanistan, Bush’s Global War on Terror (BGWOT) becomes Barack’s Global War On Terror (BGWOT), just as Kennedy’s Vietnam War became LBJ’s Vietnam War back in 1963. Does anyone recall how long and costly that emergence was?

    At least when this war ended, we finally and fully withdrew. When and if America ever emerges from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Mars knows what other Asian country we manage to entangle our sons and daughters in (Pakistan looks promising), how many U.S. troops, military bases, and billion$ in military expenditures will stay there?
    BGWOT is far from over — we’re just beginning a new segment, and how long can the series last? Jolly Green Giants continue to roam the earth with guns, and we’re still rattling Tomahawks at Iran and the rest of the Axis. With our economy in a shambles (not to mention the world’s economy after following America’s financial lead), we can no longer afford these foreign misadventures. It’s time to bring the troops home, alive.

    The same Democratic anti-war fashions (although starting to yellow a bit from age) remain in vogue: I wonder when Republicans will start wearing them?

  • bystander

    Like the perspective one has of an object, as they get further and further away from it, this minimized characterization of that iconic photograph signifies to me the distance we have traveled from WWII when the premises for war seemed less ambiguous. It’s nostalgic for a period which IMHO was fully punctuated by the totally different experience in Vietnam. I wonder how relevant that image is for anyone born after 1980 (to just whip a date out of my back pocket)? I wonder how familiar Eisenstaedt’s photograph is to them.

  • vcInCA

    bystander, i’m from 77, and its very iconic of WWII-the pic is everywhere, on tshirts, as a poster, etc. i’m not aware of it being re-used as much as, say the uncle sam wants you for the army drawing, or the rosie the riveter drawing (which are both older), but i don’t imagine most people around my age wouldn’t make the connection between the above & the original photo. the one thing younger folks may do is assume that the shot is a ‘going away to war’ shot-that is what i thought it was, for years.

  • zatopa

    Does it make a difference that the doll is dressed like a Russian sailor and the girl is in a naughty go-go outfit rather than an industrious nurse?
    And why was this in the “Portraits” category? It’s a fun and telling series, but really, portraits? Only in the most figurative sense.

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