Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.
Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.
Two walruses kissing as they eat from a hand between them at the Brookfield zoo, 1938.
A man and woman kissing while geared to a lie detector machine to measure the emotional reaction,1939.
Couple kissing in front of the Delta Tau Delta mummy at the University of the South. Girls are told: "Kiss mummy or kiss me." 1940.
Actress Marilyn Hare being kiss by soldiers as repayment, 1942.
Multiple exposure of Deanna Durbin and Edmond O'Brien walking toward each other and kissing; from motion picture "Tonight and Forever." 1942.
Couple in Penn Station sharing farewell kiss before he ships off to war during WWII. 1943.
Mrs. Martini, wife of the Bronx Zoo lion keeper, kissing a tiger cub. 1944.
A jubilant American sailor clutching a nurse in a back-bending, passionate kiss as he vents his joy while thousands jam the Times Square area to celebrate the long awaited victory over Japan. 1945.
A little boy dressed as Uncle Sam, kissing a little girl on the cheek.1945.
Newly wed couple Marshall Jacobs and wife Yolanda kiss after being married atop a flagpole. 1946.
Peggy Lee getting a goodnight kiss on the nose from her 4-year-old daughter Nicki at home. 1948.
Baseball player Yogi Berra getting kiss from his wife, Carmen, before he leaves for clubhouse. 1949.
Gallant tiger bowing to kiss hand of flapper Barbara Pettit. 1949.
Christina Goldsmith tenderly kissing a Weimaraner puppy, which she took from a new litter of her father's stock since he is a top breeder of Weimaraner hunting dogs. 1950.
Josephine Baker receiving congratulatory kiss on the nose from her husband, orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, after her show at the Strand theater during her US tour. 1951.
Jill Corey giving her grandmother, "Mamouch", a kiss on the forehead. 1953.
Irish McCalla as "Sheena Queen of the Jungle" kissing her chimpanzee costar. 1955.
Elvis Presley tenderly embracing and kissing the cheek of a female admirer backstage before his concert, 1956.
University of Michigan student couple engaged in an impromptu kiss, which was forbidden conduct even before school ban, because earlier rules required couples to have both feet on the floor, in the Union Building on campus. 1957.
Richard Ramsey, worker in cosmetic company covered with relics of iipstick kisses to prove that dyes in lipsticks are harmless. 1960.
Steve McQueen kisses Natalie Wood's hand as the actors meet to discuss their new big-screen project, 1963's "Love With the Proper Stranger."
Astronaut Gus "Virgil" Grissom kissing his mother after his successful Gemini 3 mission, 1965.
Dustin Hoffman kissing his wife, 1969.
Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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LIFE's Most Memorable Kisses

Sometimes you need a reason to give another person a kiss. And, as was the case in probably the most famous kissing photo of all time, that reason can be a big one (victory in World War II). But, other times, a kiss is its own reason to celebrate.

Whatever you want to call it — a peck, a smooch, a snog — a kiss communicates love in a way that few other acts can match. How people started kissing is a mystery and why we do it is complicated, but, from a child's sweet kiss to a lover's sexy kiss (or a walrus' whiskery one, as the case may be), the act is a language of its own. And a photograph of a kiss, it follows, captures that feeling.

Here, with a look back at 40 years of kisses from LIFE Magazine's archives of iconic 20th century photography, that fact is as clear as ever.

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