The world’s most reproduced photograph? It’s Che, in an instant captured 60 years ago by Alberto Diaz

"one of the ten best photographic portraits of all time."



The legendary photograph of Che, which was taken 60 years ago this Thursday, has crossed all borders.
Today it is more than an image, it is the identification of a common struggle in different regions of the planet.
Among the hundreds of images that the Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz, known as Korda, captured with his camera during the Cuban Revolution, there was one that, among so many highlights, has become legend: the historic photo of Che, taken 60 years ago, March 5, 1960.

The story behind the photography

The image was baptized by its author as “Heroic Guerrilla”, and is considered by critics as one of the ten best photographic portraits of all time. It is also, to this day, the most reproduced photograph in history.

Alberto Diaz holds his photos of Che
Alberto Diaz holds his photos of Che

Korda captured the serene and firm gaze of Ernesto Che Guevara, one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution, on March 5, 1960, as the guerrilla fighter watched the funeral procession of the victims of La Coubre, who were killed in the explosive attack by the American CIA on the island.

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[Translator note: La Coubre was a French transport ship laden with munitions. It exploded in Havana Harbor. Fidel Castro blamed the US.]

The image was published in 1961, and became famous in 1968, after the death of the Che in Bolivia, when the Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli converted several of Korda’s photographs into posters, including the “Heroic Guerrilla,” to take them to Europe and encourage the struggle of the social movements of 1968 on that continent, where the image was catapulted.

The impact of photograph was such that it quickly spread throughout the world, becoming an icon of the struggle of poor peoples.

The background

Korda was a photographer who shared the principles of the Cuban Revolution, and so never charged for copyright. The only time he claimed authorship of the photo was to ban its use by a brand of vodka.
Korda noted, many years later, the photo was taken only in a minute and a half, because the guerrilla was at that moment with the rest of his companions, behind Fidel Castro, and only peered out for a moment to see the funeral pass.
“I was impressed by his look of pure anger at the deaths that occurred the day before,” said the Cuban artist, who did not hesitate to portray him with his lens, twice: one vertical and one horizontal. The one he decided to use was the first, because in the second someone’s head was sticking out from behind Che’s shoulder, he said.

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