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Take a minute to remember
Posted by: McQ on Monday, August 21, 2006

If ever a picture immortalized a moment and a cause, it was Joe Rosenthal's picture of the 6 Marines raising the flag on Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima in WWII. Mr. Rosenthal defined the term "combat photographer".

Joe Rosenthal died this weekend at the age of 94:
Photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94.

Rosenthal died of natural causes at an assisted living facility in the San Francisco suburb of Novato, said his daughter, Anne Rosenthal.

"He was a good and honest man, he had real integrity," Anne Rosenthal said.
If only the same could be said for some news photographers today who find manipulating images and thus perception, more to their liking.

Since I brought it up (and a commenter alluded to it as well), Joe Rosenthal also had to deal with charges that he staged the Iwo picture. You can read about it here. Rosenthal dealt with it thusly:
As for Rosenthal, he once said that if he had really posed the flag-raising picture, "I would, of course, have ruined it" by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen."
Heh ...indeed.

What makes Rosenthal's picture so hallowed is not only the composition, the starkness and the imagery, but the timing. You have to remember that he wasn't shooting some 10 frame a second digital or a camera with auto advance film which would allow him to sort through a number of versions and pick out the best shot. His was a one-shot wonder, which means he had have everything set up on the camera to begin with, pull focus and decide instantly what the best shot was as the action was unfolding and shoot it.

He did. And he immortalized a moment, a service and a cause - and himself.

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Previous Comments to this Post 

Not to be that guy or anything, but wasn’t there a nasty rumour floating around that this picture, too, was staged? I remember reading stuff about how it was the second of two takes, but I think that whole meme sort of petered out.
Written By: Josh
It was the second flag-raising (both versions plus video) but it was still authentic. There’s lots more about the second-shot and sixth-man controversies at good old Wikipedia.
Written By: Platypus
It wasn’t staged, Josh.

Someone — I don’t remember who — thought the first flag raised there was too small, so they sent a team up to raise a bigger flag. The picture shows the second flag being raised at Iwo Jima, which is probably where the rumor came from.
Written By: Steverino
If you watch the video you understand how phenomenal the timing was. Rosenthal didn’t have a camera which would shoot 10 frames a second digitally or auto advance film and would allow him to pick the best shot of the sequence. He had one shot. He had to use good old intuition to know when to take the shot. He either got it or he missed it. In my opinion, it’s perfect. It is a masterpiece of photography in my estimation. The shot of a lifetime.

Written By: McQ

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