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[Translate to English:] Luis Korda (Luis Antonio Peirce Byers, 1912–1985)
Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel Castro entering Havana
Cuba, Havana, 8.1.1959
Gelatin silver print, mounted on cardboard, 59,7 x 49,7 cm

With the arrival of Fidel Castro and his troops in Havana on January 8, 1959, the victory of the Cuban Revolution was sealed. Effectively, all of the capital’s inhabitants were up and about to celebrate on the streets. Alberto Korda, who with his studio would become one of the most important  photographers of the revolution - it’s his image of Che Guevara that is counted as the most reproduced photograph in the world - did not take any pictures on that day, but watched the events from a balcony.

It was his studio partner Luis Antonio Peirce Byers, known as Luis Korda or „Korda the elder“, who mingled with the crowd – and actually got very close to the open Jeep on which Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos entered the city. He took a picture in a square medium format, which was later cut to upright format by Alberto Korda (there is a contact print with marks for the cutout).

The image is one of the icons of the history of the revolution and was countlessly reproduced. Especially Alberto Korda’s cutout combines the two most important aspects of photography in the Cuban revolution: a report of climactic events especially during these days, as well as the distribution of powerful portraits of revolutionary heroes. An early generation of photo-historical discussions on this period defined the term of the epical: photography that supplies the pictures to a heroic tale.

Fidel Castro, who remained in power for decades and who lastingly determined the country’s fate, has had a lot of time to refine the cult of his own person (WestLicht museum holds hundreds of photographs which impressively document that process).

Camilo Cienfuegos was a young tailor who had joined the rebels in 1958 and took on a major role in guerrilla warfare. 9 months after Korda’s picture was taken, he died in a plane crash that has not been clarified completely to this day. Nevertheless, the cult of the charismatic man with the Stetson remains unbroken in Cuba, for example on a public holiday with special rites. His photographic portraits were massively spread and often reproduced in postcard format.

Marie Röbl, © WestLicht

Lit.: Cristina Vives, Mark Sanders (ed.), Korda. A revolutionary lens, Göttingen 2008, p. 28 and 40f.

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