Lynn Jauchler Martin was eight years old when Japan surrendered during World War II. To celebrate the victory, she and her family joined a parade in New Orleans. Oscar J. Valeton Sr., a staff photographer from The Times-Picayune, captured what would become an iconic moment from the parade: Several joyous faces beaming as smoke from burning tires billowed in the background. The date was Aug. 14, 1945.
Decades later, Lynn and her family were featured in another photograph, remarkably similar to the first. The World War II museum got in touch with The Times-Picayune asking if the paper could identify the people in the photo to recreate the original image on the 70th anniversary of V-J Day: Aug. 15, 2015.
The newspaper published an illustration of the photograph and asked people to identify the participants. The initial call for identification was made in May, and Times-Picayune reporter John Pope handled the responses between his daily assignments. The whole process took a little less than two months.
Like any verification project, this one came with hurdles. In one case, the newspaper was contacted by two people who provided different identities for the same person in the photo. The newspaper decided to invite them both. “It wasn’t like that we were giving away money,” Pope said. “It was just supposed to be part of a celebration.”
Since the photograph was taken “in the moment,” something journalists refer to as a “grab shot,” the only way to recreate the photo was to rely on the integrity of the responders, Pope said. The passage of time also made the project difficult. Since a lot of people from the photograph died in the intervening years, some invitations were sent to the family of the deceased.
Lynn has seen the photograph published in the newspaper nearly every year, displayed in the museum and featured on its merchandise. “It’s something we are so proud of,” she said.
When she saw the announcement on The Times-Picayune’s website, she emailed her brother and her cousin, who were also in the picture. The original photograph also features her mom, aunt and godmother, she said.
Lynn still had family – albeit a different set of people — when the photo that had been framed over her wall was recreated 70 years later. She was accompanied by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Recreating historic images has slowly gained popularity in the past few years. Recently, a society recreated a photograph captured during the the World War I in southeast London. The case of The Times-Picayune is an example of how historians and journalists can work together to rediscover the people who made history. The photograph captured a moment in history, but it also holds great emotional value for the people in the image.