The Documented Kiss

Recently I came across a marvelous photo that stroke me as a marvelous photo should strike. The picture of a young couple kissing so passionately on the pavement during the Vancouver unrest that it seems that they’re close to make love haunted the Internet shortly after it was taken. However, as one of the blogs stated it the true story behind the picture that worldwide bloggers dug out, illustrated how “photos lie.” On the photo a guy is kissing his injured girlfriend out of compassion and comfort, even though it looks like a passion kiss.


A kiss during the riot (C) Richard Lam, 2011

However, to me the statement about the mendaciousness of photography seems to be a little one-sided, and looks like an attempt to get rid of the responsibility of how we ourselves perceive the world. Being a objective combination of colors, shadows and light, it just visually depicts what was there. After seeing a photo most of us do awwwww, and the cliche “make love not war” phrase pops up in our minds. But the true story behind the picture it happens to be a bit less emotional to our looking-for-extremes taste: it’s a kiss of comfort, not passion.


V-J Day Kiss (C) Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945

But photography, even photojournalism, is more than just an objective reality. It’s how we perceive it, and what makes it different for us. Even how it inspires us. So, the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo taken on the day of Japan’s surrender, which marked the end of WWII in the US, does not become less emotional and symbolic, if in reality that sailor kissed the nurse just because he was drunk and obnoxious. It still symbolizes the end of the war. Sometimes what we see in a photo is much more important than the reality behind it.

Anyway, great job, Richard!

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One thought on “The Documented Kiss

  1. But don’t you agree, that the Vancouverite kiss is out of love; no matter if it’s because of compassion or passion? It’s the boy’s try to comfort his girlfriend, and it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t love her.
    As for the sailor’s kiss, as famous as it might be; I can’t help but to notice how suffocated she really looks. Honestly, I never liked this photo. Just one look at the nurse’s face was enough for me to hear her muffled words in my head: “Let me go, let me go!”

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