Saturday, April 17, 2010

The story of a portrait

This is Alberto Korda. Korda was the son of a railway worker, and took many jobs before beginning as a photographer's assistant. He was a photographer for the Cuban newspaper Revolución in 1960 when he produced on March 5, 1960 the iconic image of Che Guevara, that became a worldwide symbol of revolution and rebellion.

The freighter La Coubre exploded at 3:10 p.m. on 4 March 1960, while it was being unloaded in Havana harbor. This 4,310-ton French vessel was carrying 76 tons of Belgian munitions from the port of Antwerp.

At the instant of the explosion, Che Guevara was in a meeting in the INRA building. After hearing the blast and seeing the debris cloud from a window overlooking the port area, he drove to the scene and spent the next hours giving medical attention to the scores of crew members, armed forces personnel, and dock workers who had been injured, many of them fatally.

Che Guevara at the La Coubre memorial service
I've always had enormous urge to draw Che's portrait, using his famous photograph taken at La Coubra memorial service on March 5, 1960..

..and I always wanted to do this in my own way, not interested in even remotely how and why others drew him.

Knowing that this is the most copied photograph in the history of photography, did not put me off. I had my own reasons.

I had to explore his face first, I have to understand his lines. The best way to achieve this is to draw an outline, a contour, like a blind man recognizing a face.

I used "felt art marker" to draw the portrait in free strokes. I strove to remain loyal to lines emerged from studying the original picture, unlike commonly known templates which were manipulated to make him look younger for propaganda purposes. Take this one for example:

This is certainly a more handsome looking portrait used in Cuban murals and propaganda posters. But in this form despite we see a much younger and healthier looking plumply face, the portrait lacks emotion in general and Che looks awfully unreal.

I had to do much better than this.

I let my hands to capture his character freely, his sadness, his silent determination and the aura of funeral atmosphere surrounding him at the time. 

Yet my drawing is not only about the funeral nor about heartlessly dry soul crushing ideological propaganda.

Above all I wanted to capture a man who is standing behind his principles, his revolutionary ideals. His looks say it all: "I am standing here with you no matter what". Venceremos ("we will win".)

Did they win? Only they will tell.

But 'Che' meme will continue to live with us.

Che survived the odds and became the coolest icon of popular culture manifesting and translating itself forever as the 'rebel with a cause' within the midst of our collective consciousness.

1 comment:

Bob MacNeal said...

Your drawing is powerful and becomes more compelling knowing the story behind it.