The Latymer School History Magazine - page 48

The two original photographs
Alberto Korda took of Che.
The one on the left was
cropped and became the
iconic image, ‘Guerilla
Heroico’, we see today.
Korda on his Leica telephoto
lens, however, was barely seen
again for the next few years. It
was absent from the following
day’s papers which Korda
hoped would publish it.
Instead, images of Fidel Castro
making a passionate speech
with the Cuban flag
appropriately waving behind
him became the talking point.
It wasn’t really until after Che’s
death in 1967 that the
photograph was used
prolifically. A few recount
seeing it prior to his death,
with flashes and glimpses of it
popping up in articles, but it
didn’t impress many to begin
with. Giangiacome Feltrinelli,
an Italian publisher, played a
part in bringing the
photograph to Italy and
Europe (after being given
copies for free by Alberto
Korda) where it began to be
used on posters by thousands
protesting against his death in
Bolivia. Many had been
outraged by the photographs
that showed the exhibition of
Guevara’s death and therefore
used the counterpart image,
Guerilla Heroico
as it became
known (meaning ‘Heroic
Guerrilla Fighter’), as a symbol
to express their disgust and
frustration over his execution.
However, Feltrinelli didn’t
credit Korda causing him to
accuse Feltrinelli of exploiting
the photograph for his own
fortune, hence Korda
remained the unknown
photographer until 1980.
Shortly after the photograph
had been widely used for
posters, it fell into the hands of
Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick. It
was he who was responsible
for producing the high
contrast two-tone drawing
from the photograph with the
aim that it would “breed like
rabbits”. The drawing was
originally screen printed in red
and black, translating the
photograph effectively into a
striking graphic image and it
was this version of the
photograph that was soon to
be seen everywhere,
emblazoned on the likes of t-
shirts, jewellery, billboards and
even inked onto skin.
Interpreted in so many
different ways it became a
symbol of hope, freedom,
communism, rebellion,
revolution and suffering, to
name a few.
To this day, despite the
universal use of
‘Guerilla
Heroico’
, Alberto Korda hasn’t
earned a single penny for it.
Consistent with Communist
beliefs, Fidel Castro and the
rest of Cuba did not believe in
copyright laws. For them,
images and ideas were free to
be shared in the public
domain and the notion of
copyright was, in some ways,
an
anathema.
This
therefore
aided the
proliferation
of the image
as it was free
from the
constraint of
copyright
laws, but at
the same
time it
denied Korda any profit where
many would argue it was due.
Similarly Jim Fitzpatrick waived
his right to any profit from his
reinterpretation of the
photograph – an image that
was even more widely
reproduced than Korda’s
original. Together the absence
of copyright on both the
photograph and screen print
allowed the free exploitation
of Che’s physiognomy across
the world.
More recently, just over 50
years after the photograph was
taken, with Cuba now having
joined the World Trade
Organisation, legalising
copyright, it has become the
subject of legal battles
pursued by Alberto Korda’s
daughter. Following in the
footsteps of her father who
sued Smirnoff Vodka in 2001
for illegally using the image in
a commercial advertisement,
his daughter is now stamping
her foot down on other
companies whom she believes
to be doing the same. But,
what looks like an attempt
from the Korda family to save
the dignity of the image may
have come too late.
Even though the ubiquity of
the image may appear a
positive, meaningful symbol to
some, as it is diluted down into
popular culture, it is
undeniable that the meaning
of this symbol is being lost.
Now, regularly spotted on
garments in high street shops,
Guerilla Heroico
is becoming
simply a fashion accessory. The
real question we should be
asking ourselves is not
whether Che would or would
not have condemned the
consumerist exploitation of the
image, but whether the
photograph has in fact
become another 20
th
Century
image shorn of its radical
meaning, having lost all its
potency.
48
Did you know?
Che Guevara was
never actually a
Cuban citizen,
despite being
such a key
orchestrator of the
Cuban Revolution.
I...,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47 49
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