The Cuban Revolution of 1959 was one of the most spectacular political events of the twentieth century. A dramatic chapter in the Cold War, the improbable overthrow of the dictator Fulgenico Batista by a ragtag band of young Communist guerillas and intellectuals occurred just ninety miles from the United States. Tracing the movement from the triumphal entry of the rebels into Havana on January 1, 1959, to the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, these images show the tremendous influence of photography in recording and encouraging the revolutionary movement in Cuba. Among the most outstanding works in our collection of rare vintage prints are Alberto Korda's famous portrait of Che Guevara titled "Heroic Guerrilla" and never-before-seen images of Che's death in Bolivia in 1967. Our inventory features work from over thirty photographers, including important images of pre-Revolutionary Cuba in the 1950s by Constantino Arias as well as classic images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raúl Corrales, and Burt Glinn, among others. Cuba in Revolutionexplores everyday life in Cuba before and after the Revolution and considers the ways in which both Cuban and foreign photojournalists helped construct the image of the revolution abroad.
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