He speaks with a passionate cigar-burnt voice, his colorful shirt may be bright, but it does not outshine the light of his presence. One of his work is the most recognizable image in the entire face of this earth, even those who were born long after his object wears the image on their skin as a tattoo and bumper stickers. His name is Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, better known as Alberto Korda, the man who captured the iconic image of the son of the Cuban revolution, Ernesto Ché Guevara.
Like everyone else, he was just shooting for the sake of shooting, he never knew that one of his candid shot in 1967 of Ché, who was listening to Fidel’s speech at the time he captured the image, would turn out to be the image of courage, hope, of an ideal that symbolizes the spirit of freedom.
It was captured like most iconic images of our time: With a combination of luck, keen observation & sharp eye; how it came to fame, however, is another story:
Then in early 1967, a stranger came knocking. The stranger happened to be Italian publisher Gianfranco Feltrinelli who was looking for a portrait of Che, so Korda gave him two copies of the print as gift. In October of that same year, Che was executed by the Bolivian army. Feltrinelli printed a thousand posters of Che and began selling them – this is the photo which became iconic around the world, and is present even today on many shirts, posters and books. Feltrinelli became very rich off of this photo, however Korda never received any royalties or money for taking what is considered the worlds most published photograph. People often ask Korda how he was able to take that photograph, and he admits “This photograph is not the product of knowledge or technique. It was really coincidence, pure luck.” For all the amazing work that he did, he was a very modest and humble man who enjoyed a lot of the simpler things in life.
Aside from being a documentarian, he was also a photographer on his own terms. As you can see from the collection above, Fidel & Ché were not his only object of love, but also women and fashion:
Korda also loved fashion – mainly because of the beautiful models, however fashion photography was not a custom at that time in Cuba, so Korda began his photography career taking photos for advertisements. However his true passion for women showed through as he chased after the young up and coming models. He managed to find a regular place for his fashion photography in Havana Weekly, making him Cubas first fashion photographer. In 1959 he was awarded the “palma de plata” for his photography. He fell in love with one of the top models in Cuba – Natalia Mendez – and soon made her his wife.
True to his ‘Fidelism’ beliefs, he donated his entire collection of 12,000 negatives to the Historical Study of The Revolution[1. I found no reference about this ‘agency’ except the translated subtitle from the Buena Vista Social Club], he said, he wants these photographs to outlive him.
We never gave him enough credit for his lifetime dedication, nor we gave enough thoughts to that idea of freedom that he and his Cuban friends have fought for. Not long after the (uncredited) appearance in Buena Vista Social Club, he left us with this candid wisdom.
- Alberto Korda by Bill Lasarow
- Photographs by Korda
- In pictures: Korda photos of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara
- Women & Fashion Gallery
— R.I.P. Alberto Korta (14/09/1928 — 25/05/2001).