This photographic icon of the 20th century, the “most enduring political brand of our epoch” (M. Casey) was photographed by Alberto Korda with his Leica M2 at a commemorative event during which Fidel Castro made a passionate speech in front of thousands of people, uttering his legendary slogan “Patria o muerte!” for the first time. On the previous day, 95 people had died when the freighter “La Coubre”, carrying a shipment of Belgian ammunition, exploded; the CIA was suspected of sabotage. The result was an important step in the process of Castro’s rapprochement with the USSR, and thereby towards the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and ultimately also for Che’s subsequent renunciation of Cuban politics.
Korda was taking photographs with his Leica M2 for the magazine Revolución. After capturing the máximo líder as well as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who were also standing on the rostrum, Che Guevara appeared accidentally in the focus of his 90mm Leitz lens. From a distance of about six meters, Korda managed to take two pictures, one in portrait and one in landscape format, before Che again vanished from his line of vision.
The high point of the incomparable dissemination of this portrait, a detail from the landscape format, was reached only after the revolutionary’s death; only a few vintage prints in the stricter sense are still extant. All the prints made directly from the negative during Korda’s lifetime – recognisable by the scratch in the vicinity of the star – are today considered sought-after collector’s items; most of them date from the 1990s. This print can be considered an extraordinary rarity because of the early printing date.
- Jean Larteguy, “Les Guerilleros”, in: Paris Match, August 19, 1967;
- Mark Sanders/Cristina Vives (eds.), Alberto Korda. A Revolutionary Lens, Chicago 2000, p. 48;
- Christophe Loviny (ed.), Korda sieht Kuba, Munich 2003, p. 79;
- Saul Corrales/Carlos T. Cairo (eds.), Che Guevara. By the Photographers of the Cuban Revolution, Havana 2006, p. 16;
- Michael J. Casey (ed.), Che’s Afterlife.
Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction