The history of Spanish culture and their historic events have been captured through art for centuries. Photography is one form of art that has documented and symbolized historic events that are still used today as historical documents. A Cuban photographer, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, also known as Alberto Korda, famously documented the events of the Cuban Revolution. Alberto Korda became the world’s most famous Cuban photographer for his photography, documenting history of the revolution with over 55,000 revolutionary themed photographs.
Korda was born in Havana Cuba in 1928.
He taught himself about photography with his father’s camera, leading to capturing some of the world’s most famous photographs known today. Korda’s career began shooting photographs at weddings and baptisms, and selling his photo’s as souvenirs at the event after he developed them. In 1953 Korda opened up his own studio with photographer Luis Pierce. When the studio first opened, they were accepting any jobs that they came across from advertising to fashion jobs.
Korda’s style of photography was distinctive from the traditional photographers style. Korda was different from the traditional style because he disliked artificial lighting and only used natural light in his studio. Korda was quoted saying that artificial lighting was “a travesty of reality.” It was Korda’s unique style that helped him become widely recognized in the fashion world photography. He quickly established himself as Cuba’s leading fashion photographer. This unique style of untraditional photography led his business to becoming more then a photography studio, but an art studio.
In 1959, Korda hit a turning point in his career, the Cuban Revolution. When the Cuban Revolution began, a newspaper was created which was different from most, in which it had many more photographs than articles documenting the uprising events in Cuba. Korda was sent with a team of photographers from the paper to the United States to document the events while Fidel Castro was visiting the United States in 1959. One of the first monumental photographs taken during the visit was a photo of Castro’s visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C, photographed by Korda. From then on, Korda became Castro’s personal photographer; following Castro wherever the revolution took him Korda went, traveling throughout Cuba and overseas.
On an assignment after the guerrillas defeated dictator Fulgencia Batista, Korda encountered such extreme poverty that changed his life, transforming himself to become a part of the revolutionary cause. Korda said, “Nearing 30, I was heading toward a frivolous life when an exceptional event transformed my life: The Cuban Revolution. It was at this time that I took this photo of a little girl, who was clutching a piece of wood for a doll. I came to understand that it was worth dedicating my work to a revolution which aimed to remove these inequalities.” The photograph was named La Nina de la Muneca de Palo.
One of the images that Korda captured of the leaders involved was of Fidel and Nikita Khrushchev, illustrating the differences in each of them that were obvious in their individual politics. He continued to follow the new Cuban leaders wherever the revolution took them, Korda followed. Fidel returned to Sierra Maestra, in 1959, where the attacks of Fulgencio Batista regime began. Korda would always get himself in front of the uprisings Fidel was leading in order to get the photographs he wanted. Whenever Korda was return home, he would develop the documentary images and give them to the newspaper to print. During the trip to Sierra Maestra, Korda snapped many pictures and named the series of photos “Fidel Returns to Sierra.”
In 1960, Korda captured a worldwide symbol of revolution and rebellion, the iconic image of Che Guevara. The image was taken at a protest rally after a Belgian freighter carrying arms to Cuba was blown up by counterrevolutionaries while being unloaded in Havana harbor, killing more then 100 people. Doctor Ernesto Che Guevara joined revolutionaries to help save lives, but during a historic battle, her took up arms and came a symbolic freedom fighter. This photograph of Che Guevara captured by Alberto Korda is considered to be the most iconic image in human history.
Every one of Alberto Korda’s photographs of the revolution was symbols of the revolution. He wanted to help complete the goals that were thought to be what the revolution was about. He dedicated his life to Fidel Castro as an official photographer, a friend, and a personal photographer. Korda did not get paid to be Fidel’s photographer. Korda more recently spoke in Havana and said, “Life may not have granted me a great fortune in money, but it has given me the even greater fortune of becoming a figure in the history of photography.” Korda had a passion for photography, his country, and the causes of the revolution.