Joe Rosenthal, the photographer most famous for the Iwo Jima Victory photo, left, died this week. His flag-raising photo has been called the most famous photo of World War II. The photo was listed in 1999 at No. 68 on a New York University survey of 100 examples of the best journalism of the century.
When the alteration of digital photographs became controversial, historical photo alterations became a hot topic. (The most recent was an altered photo of bombing in Beirut). Because an earlier flag-raising photo, right, was taken that day by Lou Lowry, and another was taken of the first flag coming down and the second one going up, taken by Bob Campbell, Rosenthal has been accused of staging his photo.
Shortly before his death, Editor and Publisher helped clear the controversy and the record is that Rosenthal did not stage his photo. He won a Pulitzer for the photo, which captured a moment in history.
The photo became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial (dedicated in 1954) near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, known as the Marine Corps War Memorial. The photo has become an icon for the Marines.
The message of the photo was that World War II was a good war and Americans were the liberators. Images of victory are important messages in wartime. The idea of Americans spreading (planting the flag of) liberty and democracy around the world continues. War images are important and journalists are tightly managed to render the appropriate messages.