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Master Kiss

Kiss in photography

Stolen or passionate, played or real, kiss is, perhaps more than others, the subject which has always attracted every photographer in a special manner, sometimes making him famous. This is the case of the American photographer Furman Stewart Baldwin, best known for the picture he took in 1947 of his two-year-old son and two neighborhood girls, commonly called Il BacioThe Kiss. In this photo, one of the neighbors seems to look a bit jealous because the boy is not kissing her, the boy in the picture is Baldwin’s son, Furman Stewart Baldwin, Jr.

A different story is the one of Robert Doisneau and his Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville. At the time, image rights were already protected by law and a cautious Doisneau preferred to use friends or young actors to feature in some of his commissioned reportage, in order to avoid legal issues. One afternoon in March 1950, he went out into the streets of Paris with young actor friends and just let them be: they walked, held hands, talked, and kissed, with the photographer never far behind. “His models weren’t models in the sense that they didn’t pose. Doisneau was simply catching them flirting and kissing, in a very natural way,” says director Clémentine Deroudille — Robert Doisneau, le révolté du merveilleux.

Often called “The Kiss,” the V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt 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. That’s not the only photograph taken that day. Another Life photographer, William C. Shrout captured one thing that Eisenstaedt couldn’t easily have captured: images of Eisenstaedt himself kissing a woman.

A case in point is the Elliott Erwitt’s perfectly framed image of a couple kissing, seen through a rear-view mirror. It was part of a Life magazine story about love, and was one of hundreds taken. I didn’t see this picture until 25 years after I took it. And it’s turned out to be one of my most popular pictures.

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  1. Un bacio sta bene su tutto Master Kiss da Dioniso Punk – Evaporata

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