The history of the portrait of Che Guevara: how the legendary picture enriched anyone but the authorBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/the-history-of-the-portrait-of-che-guevara-how-the-legendary-picture-enriched-anyone-but-the-author
Everyone has seen this photo: a fiery look, a beret on one side, fluttering hair ... The irony of fate: the photo of a fighter against capitalism has become one of the most recognizable brands on which businessmen have made millions.
Che Guevara has not been in this world for more than half a century, and there is still a huge demand for his portrait. It is printed on T-shirts, mugs, posters, bags, and souvenirs. Is there a more popular photo? No. But it was made 60 years ago!
In March 1960, a powerful explosion occurred in the port of the capital of Cuba, which claimed more than a hundred lives. It was a terrorist attack. According to the Cuban authorities, CIA officers blew up a large ship with ammunition in order to deprive the young Cuban state of weapons. A lot of people joined the rescue operation. Was among the rescuers and Ernesto Che Guevara.
The next day, a mourning rally was held in memory of the victims. Fidel Castro is on stage, throwing angry words into the crowd. Somewhere behind him are loyal comrades, among them, of course, Che, who all day before had been helping the wounded at the port (he was a doctor by profession). And in the hall there are gloomy and silent listeners, shocked by the scale of the tragedy and listening to every word of Fidel.
Alberto Korda, a reporter for one of the Havana newspapers, is also in the hall. He was doing frame by frame, anticipating the loud stuff. At some point, his attention was attracted by an unusual face - beautiful, with burning eyes and curls escaping from under the beret. It was Comandante Che who took a step forward, finding himself almost next to Fidel.
Alberto Korda instantly fell under the strange charm of this "pale young man with a burning gaze." He managed to press the camera button three times before the young revolutionary turned away.
Later, the photographer developed the film and printed out the most successful, in his opinion, shots. Of course, among them were shots of Che Guevara. Except the editor didn't take them to the newspaper. If only he knew how he missed…
As a result, an enlarged photo of Che with the inscription "Heroic Partisan" decorated the wall in the photographer's house. Alberto Korda simply could not part with this picture: Che's gaze was mesmerizing and attracted, like a magnet. The picture hung in his house for seven years. Seven years — before the whole world saw him.
And then a guest came to Alberto's house. His name was Feltrinelli, he was a successful Italian publisher. After seeing Che Guevara's picture, Feltrinelli was speechless: he, too, was bewitched by the irreconcilable gaze of the fearless fanatic fighter. Alberto Korda was so kind (and so simple!) that he heeded the publisher's fervent requests and presented him with several copies of this photo.
Alberto Korda - Cuban photographer
It could not have happened more opportunely — for Feltrinelli. That same fall, Che died in Bolivia. The publisher's instinct worked unmistakably: he realized that the Cuban revolutionary could become an "icon", a symbol, and that his photo could be sold profitably.
And so it turned out. Italian youth instantly bought posters with the image of the "Heroic Partisan". Che's personality began to be poetized, legends were told about him, he was mourned, he was worshipped. With posters, Che went to rallies demanding freedoms and respect for human rights.
Somehow it so happened that the portrait of Che began to be used in the struggle for different ideas. The image of a beautiful and brave Latin American won the hearts of millions. Even the hippies began to exploit it with might and main, they are still happy to wear clothes with the image of Comandante Che.
And now guess who got rich on this case? That's right - an enterprising businessman Feltrinelli, who received a portrait as a gift. The author of the photo, Alberto Korda, did not earn a penny on his work. But what about copyright, you ask?
There was no copyright in Cuba. Because when the leaders of the countries signed the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Fidel Castro for some reason did not do it. And thereby deprived the subjects of his country of royalties.
Meanwhile, the banner of success was picked up from Feltrinelli and other businessmen. Quickly oriented, the portrait of Che was used by Mercedes, having printed its corporate logo instead of an asterisk on the Commander's beret. And then this image began to be replicated just non-stop: the inspired face of the revolutionary decorated watches, T-shirts, badges, calendars…
Alberto Korda received absolutely nothing from all this. I must say, the Cuban photographer treated this state of affairs philosophically and never tried to "swing the rights". Alberto was generally a very interesting person: for 10 years he accompanied Fidel Castro everywhere, working as a personal photographer of the leader of the Cuban revolution. What kind of pictures he didn't have!
But only the black-and-white image of Che in a beret with a star has become a true legend. Korda only once sued, defending the honor of his beloved hero: he was outraged when he learned that Che's face was going to be printed on vodka labels. The trial was won. The photographer sent 50 thousand dollars transferred by the vodka company to the Ministry of Health of Cuba on the same day, noting:
Alberto Korda died in 2001, at the age of 72, earning the title of "The Best Revolutionary Photographer". His brilliant photo depicting a beautiful young man - a fighter for justice and a bright future - is still the most popular image in the world.