The Latymer School History Magazine - page 47

March 4 1960 at
3:10pm, French cargo
ship filled with
ammunition, La
Coubre, explodes in
Cuba’s capital city’s
harbour, leaving 80
dead and over 200
injured. The following
day, at the mass
funeral held in
Havana, Cuban
photographer Alberto
Korda snapped an
image that captures
the presence of the
elusive revolutionary,
Che Guevara, later to
become one of the
most ubiquitous photographs
on the planet. Born on 14 June
1928 to a middle class
Argentinean family, he was
originally named Ernesto
Guevara de la Serna but later
became known as “Che”, an
expression which corresponds
to “mate” in Spanish. As a
young man, Che became
politicised on his travels across
southern America with his
close friend Alberto Granado,
documented in the 2004 film
The Motorcycle Diaries
was based on the record he
kept for his nine month-long
He began his journey as
Ernesto the doctor, particularly
interested in finding the cure
for leprosy. But along the way
he sympathises with Chilean
peasants from whom he hears
stories of brutal capitalist
landlords who have left them
homeless in their own land,
hence he returns as Che the
revolutionary. These true
revolutionary colours shine
through as he hands over most
of what little money he has to a
suffering mining couple as well
as swimming across the
dangerous stretch of river,
from the leper colony staff
party over to the patients’
separate quarters on his
birthday; crossing the divide to
what he sees as artificial
boundaries as a step towards
his search for global socialism.
Guevara went on to join forces
with fellow Cuban
revolutionary leader Fidel
Castro and together they
overthrew the pro-American
government in Cuba led by
Fulgencio Batista in the 1959
Cuban Revolution.
Despite both Castro and Che
being leading lights in the
revolution, it is only the image
of Che that has taken on a life
of its own to transcend even
the historic events themselves.
Castro may have outlived Che
by 50 years, but there is no
single picture of him that has
come anywhere near to being
reproduced the number of
times the Che image has been.
Whether it was down to his
physical attraction that many
have commented on or his
unique appeal that drew
people’s attention, there is no
distinct conclusion that can be
reached as to why the
photograph became so viral.
However, it wasn’t always such
a well known image, in fact it
took many years for it to even
be recognised at all.
The photographer, Alberto
Korda, born in Havana in the
same year as Che, had
changed his name from
Alberto Diaz Gutierrez after
opening his studio in 1953. At
first he was a fashion
photographer, admitting that
his main aim was to “meet
women”, but this came to an
abrupt end in 1959 as he
reflects that, “nearing 30, I was
heading towards a frivolous
life when an exceptional event
transformed my life: the
Cuban Revolution”. Fidel
Castro saw the need to
document and publish images
of the revolution and therefore
made Korda the Revolution’s
photographer, as well as
befriending him.
On the day of the 5
1960, Korda positioned
himself amongst the crowd,
below the podium that was
built for the funeral near the
Colon Ceremony. Whilst
Castro orated, blaming the
Americans for the sabotage of
La Coubre, Guevara, who was
originally hidden behind a
podium, stepped forward for
just a few seconds - enough
time for Korda to capture two
photographs of him; one
portrait and one landscape.
Korda recalls being struck by
the expression on Guevara’s
face in the photograph he
captured as he says it showed
“absolute implacability”, as well
as his anger and pain at the
immense display of aching
humanity that was weeping for
its dead.
After the photographs had
been shot, Korda knew he had
something special, intending
to deliver one to the paper
that same night. He
immediately developed them
in his dark room and it was the
landscape picture which he
cropped - removing the edge
of a palm tree and part of a
face - that became the iconic
image. The cropping of the
photograph extracted it from
this single event in history,
turning it into something more
abstract and universal, thus
helping it to become prevalent
not only in Cuba
but around
the world. This is a great skill
of Korda’s but he still remains
very humble about the part
he played in the making of
the image: “this photograph
is not the product of
knowledge or technique. It is
really coincidence, pure
This “lucky” image snapped by
By Flo Beswick
I...,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46 48,49
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