The Happiest Photo Ever Made

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ALFRED EISENSTAEDT / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

The drum major for the University of Michigan marching band rehearses as admiring children fall in line, 1950.

Take a fresh look at Alfred Eistenstaedt’s famous “Drum Major,” photographed in 1950. As the editor, writer, poet and one-time director of photography for LIFE, David Friend, once said, this picture is Eisenstaedt’s “ode to joy.”

“It was early in the morning,” Eisenstaedt said about the photograph taken on assignment for LIFE, covering the University of Michigan’s nationally famous marching band. He spotted the school’s drum major practicing. Then, Eisenstaedt said, “I saw a little boy running after him, and all the faculty children on the playing field ran after the boy. And I ran after them. This is a completely spontaneous, unstaged picture.”

Generations later, the picture remains one of the great photographer’s most beloved. When  Bill Clinton was offered any Eisenstaedt print as thanks for a sitting he and his wife and daughter granted the then-94-year-old photographer on Martha’s Vineyard  in 1993, the president reportedly chose this one.

By the way, the high spirited, high-stepping band leader is a man named David Smith.

MORE: 20 Timeless, Joyful Photos

9 comments
RaviAnantharaman
RaviAnantharaman

I chanced to see my very poem on post here for a nationally acclaimed photo like this and really feel being honored this way.  I am really thankful to Mr Gary Jurgens for his efforts.  In fact I had seen this very photo sometime ago in some web page (perhaps here itself) and had really down-loaded it.  This is simply a wonderful photo and one must remember that this was taken when no digital camera had arrived the market and the photographer had no idea about the out come of his endless clicks. The beauty of this photo is that it has a 3D effect.    I like such oldies.  I am also thankful to M/s TIME Newsfeed for showing kind gesture to incorporate my poem as one of the tags to one of the greatest photos all time.

GaryJurgens
GaryJurgens

A breeze blows on the fallen leaves,

Soft- crunching under footfalls
Then thoughts flow in a pageant
Their slowly crawling centipede
Is so much like a human chain
Their poetry exists in fine words, 
Their rhythms beating as in life
Their symmetry really pretty.
Beauty-words gently fall like
December mist dripping from leaves.
Our own transience feels like birds
In the blueness above the treetops.
In the summer sky’s blue torpor
We keep stretching our vision
Until tiny luminous worms swim
In pools of tears in raised eyes.
Here, a dog becomes a mere image
On the rock where it belongs, 
In joyful photo-luminescence. 

Jagannath rao Adukuri

GaryJurgens
GaryJurgens

WHO CAN FORGET THESE WINDOWS?

********************************************* ***********
Beyond the flashes, 
Beyond the countless clicks, 
They are the windows unto the past, 
A tour unto our own heart.

Within the endless rolls
Foregone meads are forever condensed.
Within colours and shades
A forgotten world is hidden.

And an album
To us brings in sweet memories.
Dales are revisited; 
Fountains are once again heard.

And to those lost moments
In nostalgia doth we return.
And in the wings of time
We are on an endless flight.

In a fleeting moment
We realise we have crossed many inns.
Where are those whispering winds gone? 
Unto our lost horizons or to the silence of our heart? 

Ravi Panamanna

GaryJurgens
GaryJurgens

It’s the work of the lens,

to focus its gaze and find the proper angle 
for impact, clarity; to show from its own perspective 
the body of a child wrapped in a garment 
of pleated flesh, held gently in his mother’s arms 
as though she could lift him out of it and run 
from the scourge of that landscape, 
the lash of its tongue, its voice. To explain 
that image, a split-second paralysis 
that is forever fixed in the mind, forever mute, 
itself a bystander hovering over the children 
torn from the hand so tightly held, 
maimed and killed in the presence of their mothers.

There is the sense of one moment, 
immortal, held still in one shot, one frame; 
a strobe of light that is visible, and yet invisible: 
warlords, militant machinery, the blazing turrets 
of an uprising when well-fed armies tear 
into the city like hungry vagrants 
tearing the gutters for meat. There’s an old wagon, 
its wheels turned inward, rocking slowly 
at each stop to pile a sackcloth of children’s bones 
into a conveyance of silent darkness. And yet 
it’s always the negative we hold to the light for clarity, 
for meaning, as if we’ve missed some point of view, 
as if in that frame transposing light and dark, 
there’s an image we hope to see more clearly. 

Joanne Monte

Noah'sArk
Noah'sArk

Is it because there are no black in the picture?That's racist.

BornLooser
BornLooser

its an ok picture i guess nothing that blows me away

veronicalodge2010
veronicalodge2010

Am I the only one who thinks it looks as though that drum major has his drumstick hanging out?

blubegonia
blubegonia

reminds me of a norman rockwell illustration - beautiful! :)

ucheharpers
ucheharpers

Happiness just like beauty mean different things to each of us, from the laughter of a baby to couples walking holding hands down the street. I hope "Drum Major" brought alot of happiness to this photographer