Edith Shain is probably not a name you have often heard but you recognize her anywhere. She is woman who has been widely accepted as the unidentified nurse in “V-J Day in Times Square”, this famed photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Shain died on June 20 at age 91. Learning about her passing this afternoon got me thinking: Is there a more iconic photo than this? (Certainly there are few; if you can name one sound off below.) “V–J day in Times Square” simply and wonderfully captures a great moment in American history.
But I also began thinking about how time, from when this picture was taken (August 14, 1945) to today’s date (June 22, 2010), has changed. Not only has the world completely changed, but photography today is something completely different. We take a picture usually with the intention of eventually tagging it on Facebook. Confusion over one’s identity in a picture is something of the past and something that this photograph represents.
For decades the identities of the sailor and the nurse remained anonymous. No one is entirely sure if Shain is in fact the nurse. I just don’t see something like this photo happening again. That is, after all, why it is iconic.