Great Cuban Photographer Dies
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Fri May 25 19:04:55 MDT 2001
Che Guevara photographer dies
Korda earned no royalties for his most famous shot
BBC, May 26, 2001
Alberto Korda, the photographer who took the picture of Che Guevara that
became an icon of left-wing revolutionaries and students worldwide, has died
Korda, whose real name was Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, suffered a heart attack
while in Paris for an exhibition of his works.
He worked for the Cuban newspaper Revolucion after Fidel Castro's forces
took power in 1959 - although it did not publish the famous picture.
Korda later worked as Castro's personal photographer.
"It's a great loss for Cuban culture. He was one of the top chroniclers of
the revolution," said fellow Cuban photographer Liborio Noval.
Korda took the photo for which he will be best remembered at a memorial
service in March 1960.
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.
Revolucion rejected the photo, instead running pictures of Castro and the
French writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
But Korda recognised its greatness and kept the photo tacked to his wall for
seven years, until an Italian journalist saw it.
Korda allowed the Italian to take it, and when Che Guevara was killed a few
months later, it was published as a poster in Italy.
It immediately became one of the most recognisable images of leftist
revolution, and has been reproduced on countless T-shirts, banners and
Although Korda kept the negative and the camera with which he took the
photo, he never received royalties for the picture that the Maryland
Institute of Art called "the most famous photograph in the world and a
symbol of the 20th century".
He was happy to see it used as a revolutionary banner - but when a vodka
company used it in an advertisement last year, Korda drew the line.
He filed suit in London.
"As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to
its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of
social justice throughout the world," Korda said in the autumn of 2000.
"But I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the
promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates
the reputation of Che."
Korda won an out-of-court settlement of about $50,000, which he donated to
the Cuban medical system.
"If Che were still alive, he would have done the same," Korda told the
Reuters news agency.
Korda's other memorable photos include shots of the victorious rebels
arriving in Havana and Quixote of the Lamp Post, which shows a Cuban man
sitting on a lamp post in a sea of people listening to a Castro speech.
He photographed Castro playing golf and fishing with Guevara, in the company
of writer Ernest Hemingway, and staring at a tiger in a New York zoo.
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