past exhibitions

Alberto Korda

March 18 - May 27, 2001

Alberto Korda, while visiting Paris, died of a heart attack Friday May 25, 2001. A memorial service was held in Havana the following week.

Korda: For a period of twelve years Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, who adopted the surname  "Korda" early in his career after the Hungarian filmmakers Zoltan and Alexander Korda, stood with his camera at the very center of Cuba's political crossroads. When he and a partner opened their first commercial studio in 1956 in order to take up advertising and fashion photography.

When Fidel Castro succeeded in overthrowing Basista in 1959 there was a broadly sympathetic reaction, even within the United States. Castro and the other revolutionary  leaders were for the most part in their late twenties and early thirties. Castro may have been conscious of the value of the appearance of youthful energy and dynamism in shaping the image of the new government. The upshot: for nearly ten years Korda served as something of a court photographer to Castro and his inner circle. He also became the primary documentarian of a socialist revolution.

Korda began to record the people Cuban society had left out. La Nina de la Muneca de Palo [1958] depicts the dirt-smudged face of a toddler holding a wood block with a rag that serves as her "doll." When he looked at the crowds gathering to support the arrival of Castro, El Quijote de la Farola (The Don Quixote of the Lamppost) [1959] resulted. This image not only amplifies the sea of humanity surrounding a single peasant seated, smoking, atop the streetlamp, but the figure's amazingly relaxed pose metaphorically convinces you that this Revolution had the people on its side.

Then there is the image of Guevara, Guerrillero Heroico [1960], taken at the funeral of victims of the sinking of a steamboat sabotaged in the port of Havana. This handsome, angry visage of avenging justice became an icon of the search for justice around the world. Korda himself received little recognition at the time, and no royalties. More than thirty years later, though, his work draws attention to itself with this familiar hook serving as the calling card.

Korda continued to serve as Castro's photographer until 1968, though their personal friendship survived until his death in Paris a month after he visited North Dakota. During his exhibition, he gave the    Elaine Memorial Lecture speaking about his life, his political beliefs, and his continuing support of the Cuban experiment in communism.