Alberto Korda’s Women’s Portraits at Madrid’s Cerralbo Museum


This article by Manuel Morales appeared in Madrid’s El País. For the original (in Spanish) follow the link below.

“What I liked best in life were women, rum and the revolution.” This, people say, was the sequence of life’s favorite things for Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, Korda (Havana, 1928- Paris, 2001), the man who immortalized Che Guevara with his portrait of the revolutionary dreamer. Korda is the subject of one of the star attraction in this year’s PhotoEspaña, the annual program of photography exhibits throughout Madrid, which this year is dedicated to Latin America. Korda, retrato femenino, which opened yesterday and continues till September 6, includes 60 black and white women’s portraits, taken between 1952 and 1960, about ten of which had never been exhibited before.

The curator, Ana Berruguete, noted that Korda became a photographer because he “wanted to capture women’s beauty, something that became an obsession.” This type of portrait was his defining genre, even though it isn’t the best known aspect of his work. Korda was a self-taught photographer, at first with his girlfriend Yolanda–borrowing a Kodak 35 from his father–and later with his first wife, Julia López.

. . .

After the revolution of 1959 his work fell into disfavor., with publicity and fashion being considered petit bourgeois expressions. “The bearded men at the top, but not to Fidel,” my father’s photos seemed like pornography. The regime ended up taking control of his studio, despite his having accompanied Fidel in his trips. “Even though they confiscated his materials, he never reproached them and even talked them into saving the negatives of his revolutionary photos.” Korda would then find new materials to photograph: portraits of peasants, militia soldier, or women watching military parades, who, despite their clothes or poses, were also beautiful.”

Korda will not return to fashion photography until the 1980s, never to abandon it again. The exhibit closes with his last photography session, in December 2000. These are photos of smiling models at São Paulo’s train station. These images represent Korda’s artistic epitaph. He died in Paris five months later.

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