Photo of pride flag being raised mimics Iwo Jima, causes major controversy

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When photographer Ed Freeman tried to capture the gay rights struggle in a cover photo for Frontiers, a gay magazine, he decided to imitate a famous image showing a different kind of struggle.

Freeman posed four men to mimic the famous photo of a flag being raised, captured by Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

Rosenthal took a photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman as they planted the American flag in the side of Mount Suribachi, the Washington Post reports. Within weeks, three of the men in the photo had been killed.

While Rosenthal’s photograph received a Pulitzer Prize and inspired the war bond effort to grow, Freeman’s photograph has received death threats and caused a negative social media firestorm.

Even though the photograph was taken over a decade ago, people seem to have found renewed feelings of hatred for the photograph.

Freeman told the Washington Post that he even received a death threat over the photo which he reported to the FBI. Freeman was also attacked on Facebook for the following post:

Freeman said he never expected this kind of backlash from the photograph. His is not the only image inspired by Iwo Jima that has come under scrutiny, though. Many different advertising campaigns have adapted the image to suit their needs, and it has consistently been met with negative responses.




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  • Justin

    Believe what you choose to believe, that’s your right. When the American flag is swapped for any movement that’s when our country is in trouble. The American Flag is what brings all of us together, and should never be replaced. It is the symbol of why we are able to have different opinions. The moment we get rid of it, even in pictures, is a scary moment.

    • videoflyer (@videoflyer)

      It’s easy to become too dogmatic about these things.Nobody is replacing the American flag – Freeman has merely borrowed the iconic symbolism of the classic photo in the service of a different struggle. The American flag is and remains an important symbol. But it’s symbolism is tarnished when we more ferociously defend the symbol itself than the freedoms it represents…including the freedom of artistic expression and the freedom from persecution.

  • Josh

    Talk about poor taste. Sure the people that fought in the war would have something to say about this horrendous mockery

  • Dale Harding

    Granted this presentation is one of artistic expression, a freedom granted by what the US flag represents, however it diminishes the original artistic expression because the original came about during a battle to fight off genocide rather than mere discrimination. Had we lost the conflict that brought this original photo about, our current triumph over discrimination could never have been possible.

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