"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue

Alberto Korda

06 Apr 2002

Che Guevara by Alberto Korda
Che Guevara by Alberto Korda
The man you see on the left is not Alberto Korda. It's a picture taken by Korda of Che Guevara in Havana, Cuba on March 5, 1960.

Unless you've been under a rock for the last 30 years, you've probably seen this image on a poster or a t-shirt or  a computer mouse pad. In fact, if you'd like a mouse pad with Che's picture on it, just send me $20 and I'll make you one. I say that because I'm a capitalist, and I enjoy irony.

A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary about some of the most "important" (read: "famous") photographs of the 20th century. This one of Korda's was in the top 10 at least. The filmmakers went to Havana where they interviewed Korda and talked to him about the day he took the picture. Later, Korda invited them back to his studio where he still had the original negative of the famous photo. And then, while the cameras rolled, he made a print of it. He put the negative in an enlarger, cropped it, exposed it, fixed the image. And there it was -- an iconic image on a sheet of ordinary photo paper. Watching this gave me completely unexpected chills. It was about as cool as having someone print me up a copy of the ten commandments off the original analog masters.

One bit of trivia: you know how much he made off this image? Not one red cent. Not because he gave it away, but because it was reproduced without his permission, without credit. I don't know where you stand on political ideology, but this just seems wrong. I can't ask Korda's permission any more, but I'd like to give him the credit he should have received.

KORDA. For the finest in icons.