(September 14, 1928 - May 25, 2001)
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 Batista was still running the country. Castro's predecessor, it is often forgotten, operated a corrupt and oppressive regime. The influence of American money and culture played a major role in Havana, and the ambitious young photographer looked to claim his piece of the pie by catering to its appetites.
On first impression it is nearly as shocking to consider that this rising promoter of consumption and sensuality should suddenly be recast as one of the primary documentarians of a socialist revolution.The upshot: for nearly ten years Korda served as something of a court photographer to Castro and his inner circle. Looking at examples of Korda's studio work reveals a strong interest in the glamor of personality and pose. Few pre-Revolution negatives have survived, and those only as second-generation shots taken by the artist from the rare original print. There is a flair to his compositions that elevate them a bit beyond run-of-the-mill commercial pictures.
Korda continued to serve as Castro's photographer until 1968, though their personal friendship has survived to the present. Beyond the scope of this exhibition, there is a body of underwater photography and more recent fashion and portrait work that remains to be considered.
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*click on image for more information and full collection view, if permitted.
**The editioning of prints and photography was not widely practiced or expected of photographers before the 1960's, especially in Cuba. Therefore many vintage Cuban photographs have uncertain/unknown edition numbers (open editions). However due to the thin fragile negative paper and humid climates in Cuban, negatives were rarely capable of preservation after around 50 prints. The negative paper themselves often became far too fragile to use further. In addition, without a photography studio or dark room, and in the turmoil of the Cuban Revolution photographers such as Korda, printed their work in bathtubs and sinks. The printing paper available to Cubans was limited until the 1990s. Therefore differences in paper, pigment and photographs are all relative to and indicative of the given political & social status of the Cuban government at the time the photograph was printed.