For a period of twelve years Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, who adopted the surname "Korda" early in his career after the Hungarian filmmakers Zoltan and Alexander Korda, stood with his camera at the very center of Cuba's political crossroads. When he and a partner opened their first commercial studio in 1956 in order to take up advertising and fashion photography, Batista was still running the country. Castro's predecessor, it is often forgotten, operated a corrupt and oppressive regime. The influence of American money and culture played a major role in Havana, and the ambitious young photographer looked to claim his piece of the pie by catering to its appetites.(ALBERTO KORDA by Bill Lasarow at artscenecal.com)
Alberto Korda with his masterpiece
From Frontline at hinduonnet.com
Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, better known as Alberto Korda or simply Korda (September 14, 1928 in Havana, Cuba – May 25, 2001 in Paris, France) was a Cuban photographer, remembered for his famous image Guerrillero Heroico of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
The relationship between Fidel Castro and Korda could not be defined by one label or title. For Castro, Korda was more than an official photographer, a friend or personal photographer. They never discussed the salary or the title, their relationship wasn't boss and worker. Thus, Korda was very relaxed, and interested in everything and everyone. Every photo he took was a symbol of the revolution, instead of a documentary of the events of the revolution. The Cuban Revolution was the turning point in Korda's career. His career plans were completely changed with the success of the revolutionaries. In 1959 the newly established newspaper offered the largest space for photographers to display their photographs, and Korda became part of the revolutionary cause. Korda Says, “Nearing 30, I was heading toward a frivolous life when an exceptional event transformed my life: The Cuban Revolution. It was at this time that I took this photo of a little girl, who was clutching a piece of wood for a doll. I came to understand that it was worth dedicating my work to a revolution which aimed to remove these inequalities.” He got caught up in the ideals of the revolution and began photographing its leaders.(en.wikipedia.org)
El Quijote de la farola
The Don Quixote of the Lamppost, 1959
Entrada de Fidel a La Habana
The revolution turned Alberto Korda’s career in a completely different direction. Korda said he "fell in love with the Revolution and its heroes". He photographed Fidel Castro's entrance into Havana in January 1959, with Camillo Cienfuegos, another notable Cuban revolutionary, by his side. Although Korda was not a photojournalist then, he took this picture to 'Revolucion', the newspaper of the Cuban revolutionaries, which published it. Four months later, 'Revolucion' asked Korda to accompany Fidel on his first trip abroad after the revolution, to Venezuela. Commenting on his relationship with Fidel, Korda said it was "distant at first, but I was very happy to photograph what I loved — and still love — the Revolution and Fidel".(Seeing with the heart, V. SRIDHAR, Frontline at hinduonnet.com)
Nikita Krushchev & Family, 1963
As Revolution photographer Korda always worked at his own photographic tempo. He wasn't pushed by the press or by any other requests. Where ever the revolution took Castro Korda followed. One of Korda’s most recognizable images was of Castro's visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in April 1959. Castro’s travels took Korda all around Cuba, overseas, and the Soviet Union. In 1963, photos of Fidel and Nikita Khrushchev, taken by Korda, illustrated the differences in both men that were evident in their respective politics.(en.wikipedia.org)
In 1969 Fidel went back to the Sierra Maestra, the remote mountain region, where the revolutionary army began its attacks on the army of the Fulgencio Batista regime. Korda’s style was to move to the front of whatever group Fidel was leading in order to get the shots he wanted. When Korda comes back to his home, his daughter couldn’t recognize him. His hair and beard were long and hadn’t showered for months. Korda took many pictures for the newspaper and called the series “Fidel Returns to the Sierra.” Fidel always liked Korda’s photos and never stopped him when he attempted to take his picture. He worked freely without thinking about political consequences, in order to get what he wanted in his photos.(en.wikipedia.org)
Guerrillero Heroico - Che Guevara
Popularized cropped version of Che Guevara
Che Guevara at the La Coubre memorial service
Photo taken on 4 March 1960
Published within Cuba 1961 & internationally 1967
Source Museo Che Guevara, Havana Cuba
Guerrillero Heroico - Che Guevara
“the most complete human being of our age” (Sartre)
Che Guevara stepped onto the podium
Che Guevara stepped onto the podium and scanned the crowd. Korda snapped two quick shots, including the legendary one of the revolutionary with his beret, gazing like a prophet into the distance.Korda recognised its greatness and kept the photo tacked to his wall for seven years, until an Italian journalist saw it.
It is this photograph that adorns student bedsits across the world. The famed black and white portrait of Ernesto "Che" Guevara perfectly captured his intense stare and brooding good looks, helping establish his myth.
The fact that the photograph, taken with a Leica camera on 4 March 1960 at a political rally in Havana attended by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, came to international prominence owes as much to luck as Korda's skill. "It was not planned, it was intuitive," said Korda, who worked for the 'Revolucion' newspaper. He told one interviewer that Guevara had shown such an intense gaze that he had been briefly taken aback and only managed to fire off two quick shots, one vertical, one horizontal.
It was at the same rally that Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivered his famous "Homeland or Death" slogan in front of thousands of people. But the photograph of Guevara, which Korda later called "Heroic Guerrilla", did not make the next day's paper and only emerged after Guevara's death in Bolivia seven years later.
(Row rages over iconic image of Che Guevara, Jamie Doward, The Observer, Sunday 7 March 2010 at guardian.co.uk)
No other image — apart from the one of Marilyn Monroe standing at a subway grid — has been reproduced as many times in history. That photograph of Che, with his long hair flowing from underneath his beret with a star affixed to it, his eyes gazing into the distance, can be found on posters, subway walls and countless consumer articles such as T-shirts, mugs, key chains, wallets and cigarette lighters all over the world. It also adorns walls across Cuba where Che is loved for the part he played in the cause of the revolution. However, the man who took that photograph, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, known to the world as Alberto Korda, never made anything for himself from the image he gave the world.
Wherever Korda went, at photographic exhibitions or while talking to youth about photography, he would invariably be asked about that famous image of Che and how he created it. This is how he described it to Pacifica: "This photograph is not the product of knowledge or technique. It was really coincidence, pure luck." Korda was one among the 20 to 30 photographers below the grandstand that day and Che made a brief appearance at the front of the stage, for barely a minute. Korda managed to take just two shots of Che - one horizontal and one vertical. He rejected the vertical shot because a head covered Che's shoulder; he cropped the horizontal shot and gave it to 'Revolucion'. French writers Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were among those present at the memorial service for 136 people killed in an explosion that destroyed a vessel loaded with weapons for the Cuban government. Ironically, 'Revolucion' did not use Korda's pictures of Che; it carried his other pictures, of Castro and Sartre and Beauvoir. The Che pictures remained forgotten until after his death in Bolivia.
(Seeing with the heart, V. SRIDHAR, Frontline at hinduonnet.com)
The picture was still hanging on the wall in 1967, by now tobacco-tinted though, when a man knocked on the door. The person did not present himself, but handed over a letter of introduction from a high-ranking member of the Cuban administration. The letter asked Korda to help this person in his search for a good Che picture. Korda pointed at the wall saying: "This is my best Che picture". The visitor agreed and asked for 2 copies of the print. Korda told him to return the next day, which he did. When asked the price of the prints, Korda replied, that since the visitor was a friend of the revolution, he didn't have to pay.
What Korda didn't know, was that the visitor was the famous Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Well known in Europe for smuggling the "Dr. Zivago" manuscript out of The Soviet Union. Feltrinelli came to Cuba directly from Bolivia, where he had been negotiating the release of Regis Debray. Having learnt from Debray, that Che Guevara was the guerrilla-leader in Bolivia and that the end might be near, Feltrinelli saw a business opportunity in the possible assassination of Che.
(Michael Harder Photography 2001 at pix.dk)
Che’s picture printed on posters and T-shirts
The corpse of Che Guevara was hardly cold in Bolivia, before you could buy big posters, all around the world, with the Korda-image of Che. Copyright Feltrinelli it said, down in the corner. In half a year, Feltrinelli sold 2,000,000 posters. Later on the image has been transformed, transplanted, transmitted and transfigured all over the world.
Korda never received a penny. For one reason only - Cuba had not signed the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described the protection of intellectual property as imperialistic "bullshit".
(Michael Harder Photography 2001 at pix.dk)
The Way of Che
By 1969 Korda had quit covering politics, turning instead to underwater photography. Now semiretired, he supports himself with freelance advertising jobs and by selling photos of Castro and Che for $500 apiece.
When not at work, the four-time divorce and father of five nurtures his other great passion: women. He and his 21-year-old companion, Zaeli Miranda, share a modest two-bedroom apartment with her sister and a friend in Havana's Miramar district. "He's friendly and loving," Miranda says of Korda. "I'll ask him to take out the garbage, and he does it happily."
Korda, took the photo when Che was 31, yet never tried to protect his copyright. That is, until Smirnoff appropriated the image for a 1998-99 U.K. vodka ad campaign. "Hundreds of companies used my photo, but none have been as offensive," says Korda, 72. "Che wasn't a drinking man. He was a revolutionary killed defending his ideals." Outraged, the Havana-based photographer slapped a lawsuit on a London advertising firm and a photo agency for trivializing Che's image. A hearing wass set. The ad agency, Lowe Lintas, denies "infringement of any copyright or moral rights."
Korda says no matter how his lawsuit turns out, his lifestyle won't change, and any proceeds will buy medicine for Cuban children. "I don't care about money. I like being a poor man," he says. "I went after Smirnoff because of their degenerate ad. It's the principle of the thing."
(The Way of Che By Joanne Fowler, September 25, 2000 at storage.people.com)