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.
Korda was born in 1928, the same year as Che Guevara. He died in May 2001 while attending one of his many exhibitions round the world, in Paris. The life of the photographer reflected the transformation that the revolution effected in Cuban society. Korda was a fashion and public relations photographer in pre-revolution Cuba. In an interview he gave Pacifica Radio in 2000, Korda said that “the beauty of women was the first expression of my photography”. He said that while publicity photography brought him more money, he enjoyed fashion photography more. In fact, Korda went on to marry one of Cuba’s famous models. He is said to have named his studio Korda because it sounded like Kodak, the photographic products company; however, according to another version, he liked the name because he admired the film director, Alexander Korda.
The revolution turned his 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”.