Che photo as art

From an aesthetic perspective, I found the choices which the photographer, Alberto Korda made in his production/distribution of the image to be interesting. First, the fact that he chose to crop the image, taking it completely out of context and immortalizing El Che as some sort of statue bust floating in a gray haze. I think that this is the major aspect which affected the popularity of the image as an icon rather than a photograph (to be honest I really sort of forgot, as I’m sure many people do that the image itself actually came from an original photograph and thought that it was drawn or produced in some other way). Second, I find it interesting that the image did not make it out until 1967, after Che’s untimely death. In a sense, the fact that both the image of his dead body and the Korda image came out at the same time crystallized his portrayal as a martyr and an icon of revolution. On one hand, as Casey puts it, the death picture exudes some sense of serenity in a Christlike way (not a weakness which his killers had hoped to portray), while the Korda image takes care of the powerful, moral figure side of his culturally constructed self. I think in a sense the images work together to piece Che into the icon we see in the Korda image. I really liked the first chapter because it deals with the aesthetics integral in the creation of the icon as well as breaks down the creation of the image, and it’s significance at the time it was shot. Really it helps to put the photo, not the icon into context for me.

4 responses to “Che photo as art

  1. You point out that many of us would look at the Che image without knowing that it was originally a photograph taken in a specific historical context. It is interesting that you thought it was a drawing before you read this book (I didn’t even think about it at all) because that shows that you (and I’m sure many others) consider it an interpretation of reality, instead of a representation. The aesthetic appeal of the representation is what seems to interest Casey the most — as we pointed out in class, this is what he concludes with.

  2. William….drawings are interpretation and photos are representation? What about the argument that “representation is interpretation”?

  3. I think that your mentioning the fact that the image of Che is in fact cropped is very interesting. In class you pointed out that you actually liked the uncropped version more and I would be interested in knowing how the legacy of the image would have changed had it not been formatted like it was.

  4. Qwerty, you’re spot on. I would add that there are so many mediating factors involved in photography–the framing of the shot, the type of film, distortion of the lens, etc. etc.–that in any context the ‘realism’ of photography is dubious at best.

    While the Korda photo was indeed the result of a photochemical process triggered by light reflected off of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s actual face, it’s ultimately hard to argue that it’s a more ‘real’ or less-constructed version of Che than the stylized two-tone graphic mass-produced on t-shirts across the globe.

    However, the fact that the two types of images (abstract icon vs. ‘realistic’ photo) continue to be treated and circulated very differently is worth addressing. So, more to the point of Cal’s post, every image serves an ideological purpose.