August 21, 2006

Goodbye, Joe

Via CNN:

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.

His photo, taken for The Associated Press on Feb. 23, 1945, became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The memorial, dedicated in 1954 and known officially as the Marine Corps War Memorial, commemorates the Marines who died taking the Pacific island in World War II.


Update: The insipid nature of the anti-war left rears its misshapen head once more, as the malecontents at Sadly No! and their friends at's Daou Report see my mention of Joe Rosenthal's passing as a chance to attack both myself and for some odd reason, Rosenthal. To using the passing of an iconic American photographer to attack a relatively obscure blogger betrays a pettiness I personally find repulsive and a bit unsettling, but sadly, par for the course. My response to Sadly No! in the comments of that site are as follows:

So the great “Sadly No!” catch of hypocrisy is what, exactly?

Some have postulated over the years that Joe Rosenthal somehow staged the second flag raising on Iwo Jima, yet not one human soul have ever been able to provide the first shred of proof that the allegations they raised were true, as even your own cited sources concur.

This is in stark contrast to copious evidence that some (I never said nor implied all, as you scurrilously and inaccurately charge) media photographers in Lebanon staged photos, and individual photos by several others were left suspect. No less an authority on photojournalism than David Perlmutter, a man who quite literally “wrote the book” on photojournalism, has come out strongly condemning the actions of these photographers and the media organizations that they represent in Editor & Publisher.

I've only played a small role in exposing some of the photojournalist fraud coming from Lebanon, but I am proud of the work I've done, as is Perlmutter, and at least one major combat photojournalist (a Pulitzer nominee, I may add) who has stated to me privately in e-mail that he is impressed with my ability to catch some of the things I've noticed in staged and biased photojournalism coming from Lebanon.

That you would try to make a comparison between the unproven and mostly discredited charges against Rosenthal that even your own sources cannot support, and the very real and proven charges that have been levied against some Lebanese war photographers, shows a sloppiness in thinking here that quite frankly, I've come to expect.

Not surprisingly, none of the commentors there has a substantive rebuttal.

Update 2:

Via email, from David D. Perlmutter, by permission:

The overwhelming evidence, including the testimony of everyone present at the flag-raisings--both of them--was that the photograph that has become the famous icon was NOT staged. In brief, what happened was that Rosenthal took a series of still pictures of both flag-raisings. At the same time, a movie cameraman recorded the full event. The second flag-raising occurred because the first flag was too small to be seen by Marines and other military personnel throughout the island and at sea. Joe Rosenthal did not ask anyone to raise a flag, did not pose anyone raising a flag, and the second flag would have been raised in same way even if there had been no photographers present. In other words, it was 100 percent NOT a staged photo. The complication occurred because at that time photographers rarely developed their own film in the field. Rosenthal put the role in a can and sent it off for developing. Subsequently, the picture of the second flag-raising, the shot that we now recognize as the great icon, became a sensation. Rosenthal, caught up in the battle, knew nothing about his own success. Weeks later, when told that one of his photographs had become celebrated, he assumed that the questioner referred to another photograph in which the military personnel posed around the flag and talked about it as one he helped set up. Unfortunately, even though the error was corrected very quickly, it has become a data virus in the history of photojournalism. I will add that it is also a very hurtful error, both to the men who raised the flag--some of whom were killed in the battle in the days to follow--and to a sensitive and decent photojournalist. As an added note, as any working Photog can tell you, the photo violates some basic schoolbook rules of photojournalism, so, for example, he would have gotten more faces in “staged” image.
Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 21, 2006 06:10 AM | TrackBack

AND, it wasn't staged!

Posted by: Redhand at August 21, 2006 07:26 AM

How, exactly, did you get that Redhand? Too much friction?

The war in the Pacific was not staged. Millions of lives lost in WWII to protect your sorry @$$ were not staged.

Posted by: Retired Spy at August 21, 2006 08:50 AM

Spy - Redhand was referring to the contemporary allegations that Rosenthal had posed the picture. He didn't. There is separate film footage showing that the event wasn't posed.

Posted by: SouthernRoots at August 21, 2006 09:17 AM

I don't know how many times I've seen that photo fo some of our finest, and it still gets to me every time...I must be getting old.

Posted by: BobG at August 21, 2006 10:11 AM

Need more coffee; I seem to be breaking out in typos...

Posted by: BobG at August 21, 2006 10:11 AM

Reading "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley should clear up any confusion over Rosenthal's photograph. It also tells a sad, but good story.

Posted by: SouthernRoots at August 21, 2006 02:51 PM

and, as this usually comes up in these discussions, the 'Moment of Death' picture taken by Capa during the Spanish Civil War was not staged either.

There was some 70's era discussion that the photo had to be staged based on a bunch of assumptions that didn't pan out. National Geographic (I think) ran a five page series in that documented case that the photo was legit.

The guys at SadlyNo!: Lively intellects unburdened by facts, experience, or reality.

Posted by: BumperStickerist at August 21, 2006 04:02 PM

To be fair, the SadlyNo crowd say that their point was not that the Iwo Jima photo was staged, but that this was an example of a spurious allegation that, once made, has a tendency to stick around - even years later.

Perhaps that is true, but the rumours about Rosenthal were based on a misunderstanding and no other evidence. The speculation about staged photos in Lebanon is based on significant evidence that, while open to interpretation, is perfectly open to inquiry. I, for one, am more than convinced of widespread manipulation.

To my mind the SadlyNo post is unreasonably belittling the evidence concerning the modern scandal, but I think it is unfair to accuse them of intentionally maligning Rosenthal.

Posted by: Trapdoc at August 21, 2006 06:15 PM