Yevgeny Khaldei: What Makes An Iconic Photo

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To Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei, staging an iconic photo wasn’t a manipulation of history but a tribute  to  historical significance. His most famous photo of Soviet soldiers raising the Red Star over the Reichstag in Berlin reenacted a triumphal moment on the night of April 30, 1945, when it was too dark to photograph. According to Wikipedia, Khaldei repeated the scene several days later with hand-picked soldiers from Russia and Georgia (to honor Stalin). The photo was re-touched later to remove evidence of the soldiers’ looting (each wore several wristwatches) , and the smoke was added for dramatic effect. The photo was first published on May 13, 1945 in the magazine Ogonok. The famous photo didn’t carry  Khaldei’s byline, and his career was “frozen” during Stalin’s anti-Jewish repression in the late 1940s. Khaldei was rehabilitated in the “thaw” after Stalin’s death, and late in life he took portrait photographs of Michail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

Thanks to Work-Killer for pointing me to Khaldei’s photo, which was included in a gallery of 15 iconic images. I noted in a comment there that another iconic image from World War II, Joel Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, also was reenacted – albeit with controversial qualifications.  It may be the most reproduced image of all time.

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