La Nina de la Muneca de Palo, 1959

La Nina de la Muneca de Palo A7 copy.jpg
La Nina de la Muneca de Palo A7 copy.jpg

La Nina de la Muneca de Palo, 1959


Alberto Korda (1928-2001)

La Nina de la Muneca de Palo, 1959

Gelatin silver 

Paper, 16 x 12” 

Image, 13 x 9” 

Inscribed and signed on front, bottom in black pen:  “la Nina de la muneca de palo.”  A Dani, esta imagen que tiene mucho en mi vida. Alberto Korda (The girl with the doll of wood.  For Dani, this image that has much in my life.  Alberto Korda)


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Note on this photograph:  ALBERTO KORDALa Niña de la muñeca de palo(February 1959)

La Niña de la muñeca de palo (The Girl with the Wood Doll”) was extremely important in the history of Cuban photographer Alberto Korda’s career.  It served as the transition from his work as a famous fashion and commercial photographer in Cuba in the 1950s to his dedication to the Revolution in 1959.  Scouting for a location to shoot images for the Cuban tourist board, he came across the home of this little girl who became frightened of his camera and clutched her “doll,” the piece of wood she holds, telling it not to cry.  When Korda printed the image that same day, he realized he could not continue with the commercial work he felt too frivolous given the Revolution.  As a frontispiece for a book of his photography, this image is accompanied with Korda’s following words:

“Esta niña que abrazaba un leño al que llamaba “mi nene” me convenció que debía consagrar mi trabajo a una revolución que transformara esas desigualdades.”    • Korda - 1997

Translation : 'This girl who is hugging the piece of wood which she called “my baby” convinced me that I should dedicate my work to a revolution which would transform these inequalities.’ 

This particular print of the little girl holding a doll was printed in 1959 from the original negative.  Korda gave this print as a gift to the little girl in 1959 and when she died some twenty years later it remained with her family.  The photo remained hanging in their home in Pinar del Rio for over forty years, its condition the result of general weather in Cuba and two hurricanes in the early 2000s.  This is one of the earliest vintage prints to exist and shows a more open cropping than usually seen in later prints.  One possible reason may be that in 1968 the original negative for this image was confiscated by the Cuban Revolutionary government and never returned to Korda. He subsequently made an internegative from an existing print from which he printed the image thereafter.  

The documentary film, Kordavision (2007), includes a segment of Korda revisiting the little girl’s home in Pinar del Rio in 2000 showing this print with the family and the original piece of wood the little girl called her baby. 

**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.