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LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt kissing a woman during V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.William C. Shrout—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt and a reporter during V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt kissing a woman during V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.
William C. Shrout—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Go Behind the Lens of That Famous V-J Day Kiss in Times Square

Aug 14, 2015

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, after news broke of the Japanese surrender in World War II, has lived a storied life since it was taken 70 years ago. Often called “The Kiss,” it remains the iconic image of celebration at war’s end, a black-and-white bookend separating an era of darkness from the beginning of a time of peace. It is also an unsolved mystery of identity, a physics problem and, more recently, a source of controversy for those who see in it not mutual revelry but evidence of sexual assault.

But “The Kiss” was not the only photograph taken that day, nor was Eisenstaedt the only photographer navigating the boisterous New York City festivities. Another LIFE photographer, William C. Shrout, brought a different set of negatives back to the office that day, with his own perspective on the people's response to peace.

While Shrout’s photos have much in common with Eisenstaedt’s, they capture one thing that Eisenstaedt couldn’t easily have captured: images of Eisenstaedt himself. In one photo, Eisenstaedt kisses a reporter, his camera slung over his shoulder, in a pose not unlike that of the famous kiss he photographed that day. In another, he and that women walk toward Shrout, bright smiles on their faces.

Shrout's images of a host of other anonymous embraces help put that famous kiss in context: It may be the most famous photograph of unbridled joy from that day in August, but it's far from the only one. And Shrout’s images of the man behind that photo remind us that, even if a photojournalist is meant to be an impartial witness to history, he is also a part of the history he is witnessing.

VJ DAY Iconic Alfred Eisnestaedt imageIconic image of a sailor kissing at nurse during V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945. Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images 

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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