The Cuban photographer who snapped the iconic image of Che Guevara

Americas Now

October 9th marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. Yet, half a century after his execution… Che remains one of the most recognizable faces because of a picture taken by a Cuban photographer, Alberto Korda.

But as CGTN’s Michael Voss reports, Korda was never paid for the work.

It’s an image which has graced millions of posters and T shirts.

The classic portrait of Che Guevara is said to be the most reproduced picture in the history of photography.Yet the man who shot it, Cuban photographer, Alberto Diaz, whose professional name was Korda, never received any royalties for the work.

Its something, his daughter Diana Diaz says, Korda never regretted.

“My father actually never got a cent out of that, and he said he didn’t care. He was happy that the image became so well-known and helped make Che so famous.”

Before the Cuban revolution, Korda was an established photographer who specialized in advertising and fashion shoots. He was known for his eye for beautiful women, something he never lost. He left that behind to become a news photographer covering the early years of the revolution, some of his first pictures were of women militias in uniform.

His pictures quickly caught Fidel Castro’s attention and Korda was regularly at his side, including his trips to the United States, Russia and China.

Korda had photographed Che Guevara several times but it was never a close relationship like that with Fidel. It was during one of Castro’s mass rallies that Korda noticed Che Guevara and managed to get off a couple of quick shots. Korda’s newspaper didn’t publish the picture, but he liked it and kept a copy on his wall.

Seven years later, in 1967 a radical Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli came to Havana looking for a picture of Che. Korda gave him a copy for free, a gift to a fellow socialist.

That was in August and in October Che died. According to Diana Diaz Feltrinelli ordered one million posters be published.

Very quickly the image was shared around the world but with no mention of Korda’s name. In an interview for a documentary in 2000, the year before he died Korda spoke of how proud he was to have taken Che’s iconic photograph.

“I had the luck to take this photo and leave something for humanity. I didn’t leave great palaces, yachts, money in the bank, none of that. I left an example of my work during my time in this world.”

Today his daughter, Diana Diaz, hold the copyrights to Korda’s work and from here apartment in Havana organizes exhibitions of his work. Very few of them though are of Che Guevara, his work spanned everything from fashion photography to chronicling the Cuban revolution. He was also an early pioneer in underwater photography. But he will always go down in history as the man who captured the iconic image of Che Guevara.