The Iwo Jima photograph 2

The Iwo Jima photograph is unique in the history of photography for its amazing transformation into other art forms. This simple two dimensional black & white print metamorphosed into a 3D clay model, then into a 32 foot foot high bronze sculpture. It was transformed from a photograph into an engraving on a postage stamp. And its stillness was brought to animate life in two Hollywood movies. Surely no other single photograph has changed form so much, spread so widely, and made so much money? Here is a timeline of its various afterlives.

February 1945: Upon seeing the photograph for the first time, sculptor Felix de Weldon transforms it into a clay model.

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April 1945: De Weldon (centre) is photographed with his model, alongside the photographer Joe Rosenthal (right), and President Truman.

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July 1945: A US postage stamp showing the Rosenthal photograph is released. 137,000 stamps are issued.

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Spring 1945: De Weldon makes a series of life size sculptures which are paraded around the US, in a campaign that helped to raise over $20 billion for the war effort. The last surviving model is now on display on the USS Intrepid in New York harbour.

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1945: Joe Rosenthal wins the Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

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December 1949: The Sands of Iwo Jima premieres, a movie starring John Wayne, about the invasion of the island of Iwo Jima.

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It includes a reenactment of the raising of the flag. The movie is a hit.

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1951: De Weldon is commissioned to build a memorial to the Marine Corps. He begins work on converting the smaller sculpture into a 32 foot high monument.

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November 1954: The massive bronze sculpture, 78 foot high on its pedestal and weighing 100 tons, is dedicated by President Eisenhower at Arlington National Cemetry, in front of a large crowd.

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1954 to today: Numerous souvenir models of the statue are sold, as well as various other kinds of merchandise.

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2006: Clint Eastwood’s film Flags of our Fathers is released, covering many of the events of 1945 relating to Iwo Jima and the mythical photograph.

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2006: The film features a detailed reconstruction of the raising of the flag, and shows Sgt. Genaust and Joe Rosenthal photographing the event.

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See my other posts on this subject: Iwa Jima photograph 1 and Iwa Jima photograph 3.

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