On the 5th March 1960 the Iconic Photograph was take of Ernesto Guevara Lynch by Alberto Korda….
Guerrillero Heroico (English: “Heroic Guerrilla Fighter”) is an iconic photograph of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara taken by Alberto Korda. It was captured on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion. By the end of the 1960’s, the image in conjunction with Guevara’s subsequent actions and eventual execution, helped solidify the charismatic and controversial leader as a cultural icon. Korda has said that at the moment he shot the picture, he was drawn to Guevara’s facial expression, which showed “absolute implacability” as well as anger and pain. Years later, Korda would say that the photo showed Che’s firm and stoic character. Guevara was 31 years old at the time the photo was taken.
Emphasizing the image’s ubiquitous nature and wide appeal, the Maryland Institute College of Art called the picture a symbol of the 20th century and the world’s most famous photo. Versions of it have been painted, printed, digitized, embroidered, tattooed, silk-screened, sculpted or sketched on nearly every surface imaginable, leading the Victoria and Albert Museum to say that the photo has been reproduced more than any other image in photography. Jonathan Green, director of the UCR/California Museum of Photography, has speculated that “Korda’s image has worked its way into languages around the world. It has become an alpha-numeric symbol, a hieroglyph, an instant symbol. It mysteriously reappears whenever there’s a conflict. There isn’t anything else in history that serves in this way”.
The history and contemporary global impact of the image is the basis for the 2008 documentary Chevolution, directed by Trisha Ziff, along with the 2009 book Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image by Michael Casey.
On March 4, 1960, the French freighter La Coubre suspiciously exploded in Havana Harbor, killing up to 100 people and injuring several hundred more. Upon hearing the blast, Guevara rushed to the harbor to board the burning ship, angrily forcing his way past those concerned for his safety following a secondary explosion.
The following day on March 5, President Fidel Castro blamed the U.S. CIA and called for a memorial service and mass demonstration at Havana’s Colón Cemetery, to honor the victims. At the time, Guevara was Minister of Industry in the new government, and Korda was Castro’s official photographer. After a funeral march along the seafront boulevard known as Malecón, Fidel Castro gave a eulogy for the fallen at a stage on 23rd street.Castro gave a fiery speech, using the words “Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or Death”) for the first time Meanwhile, at 11:20 am, Guevara came into view for a few seconds. Korda snapped just two frames of him from a distance of about 25–30 ft (7.6–9.1 m) before he disappeared from sight Korda immediately realised his photograph had the attributes of a portrait Later, Korda said of this photograph, “I remember it as if it were today … seeing him framed in the viewfinder, with that expression. I am still startled by the impact … it shakes me so powerfully”
Korda’s roll of film negatives. Guerrillero Heroico appears on the fourth row down, third picture over (shot horizontally).
During the rally, Korda took pictures of Cuban dignitaries and famous French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, both admirers of Guevara at the time. Included in the film roll were shots of all the speakers and two pictures of Che’s brief appearance. The classic picture appears on frame number 40 shot horizontally
The first photo had Guevara framed alone between an anonymous silhouette and a palm tree; the second with someone’s head appearing above his shoulder. The first picture, with the intruding material cropped out, became Guevara’s most famous portrait. The editor of Revolución where Korda worked, decided to only use his shots of Castro, Sartre, and Beauvoir, while sending the Che shot back to Korda. Believing the image was powerful, Korda made a cropped version for himself, which he enlarged and hung on his wall next to a portrait of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda,and also gave copies to some others as a gift. It was not until 1986 that José Figueroa, an established photographer in his own right who printed for Korda and was his unofficially “adopted” son, suggested they try printing the full frame version of the portrait. Korda continued to print both versions of the image up until his death.
To take the photo, Korda used a Leica M2 with a 90 mm lens, loaded with Kodak Plus-X pan film. In speaking about the method, Korda humbly remarked that “this photograph is not the product of knowledge or technique. It was really coincidence, pure luck”
As a lifelong communist and supporter of the Cuban Revolution until his death, Alberto Korda claimed no payment for his picture. A modified version of the portrait through the decades was also reproduced on a range of different media, though Korda never asked for royalties. Korda reasoned that Che’s image represented his revolutionary ideals, and thus the more his picture spread the greater the chance Che’s ideals would spread as well. Korda’s refusal to seek royalties for the vast circulation of his photograph “helped it become the ultimate symbol of Marxist revolution and anti-imperialist struggle.”
However, Korda did not want commercialization of the image in relation to products he believed Guevara would not support, especially alcohol. This belief was displayed for the first time in 2000, when in response to Smirnoff using Che’s picture in a vodka commercial, Korda claimed his moral rights (a form of copyright law) and sued advertising agency Lowe Lintas and Rex Features, the company that supplied the photograph. Lintas and Rex claimed that the image was in the public domain. The final result was an out of court settlement for USD $50,000 to Korda, which he donated to the Cuban healthcare system, stating “if Che was still alive, he would have done the same.”
After the settlement, Korda reiterated that he was not against its propagation altogether, telling reporters:
"As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che’s image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che."