Alberto Korda with Che Guevara, one of the most famous photo ever published. Not when it was created, but when time allowed it to happen. It has been debated endlessly if Korda made any financial benefits from capturing Che, after that he gave a print for free to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, an Italian publisher. I beg to differ.
Many photographers know when they have created something amazing, for Korda on March 5, 1960, it was just another day post revolution, a day after explosions had killed almost 100 workers at the harbour in Havana.
“I stood in the crowd, waiting like everyone else, Fidel Castro was agitated, it was tense, then Che stepped in view, I made 2 frames…”
This week, twenty years ago I met Korda at his house together with Thomas Gustafsson, a Swedish writer. In the beginning Korda was a little reserved but warmed up. His home was full of people, including his present wife and a former one. A true charmer which fitted his profession, being a nude and a fashion photographer, before revolution tilted history.
So what makes an image iconic, something that people rave about and some invest heavily on. Like water dripping on a stone, if time allows a pattern might emerge. If a picture is being repeatedly published over time, its viewers might start to feel a bond. Sometimes we cheat ourselves by thinking it must be good.
I will contradict myself, since I think that Korda’s image of Che is a great portrait, still rather simple, almost banal. Korda told me about all the fuzz, that scholars and intellectuals had tried over time, to have him to agree on some artsy fartsy theories. “I just replied to them, that the way the image came out, was due to that my Leica was old and the lens was badly scratched”.