Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hector Cruz Sandoval: KordaVision, Part 2

KordaVision continues, carrying us along through a lawsuit that Korda won against Smirnoff Vodka in London (its world headquarters) for using his iconic Che Guevara photo in an advertising campaign without due credit and for corporate profit, which Korda did not like (to say the least).

Korda (Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, 1928-2001) then happily observes -- a playful (and proud) gleam in his eye, reminding me in appearance of the late George Carlin -- "I had the luck" of photographing four Nobel Prize winners: Jean-Paul Sarte, Pablo Neruda, Ernest Hemingway and Gabriel García Márquez.

KordaVision then backtracks to the 1950s. Prior to his primary association with the Cuban Revolution, Alberto adopted the moniker "Korda" to distinguish his (and partner Luis Peirce Viers') studio from others, and because it sounded like Kodak, which then dominated the photography business in Cuba. He explains that Korda is derived from the names of two Hungarian actors.

Studio Korda worked in fashion photography; Alberto often used a Rollei flex camera like his American role (and "roll") model, Richard Avedon. During this time he met his future (second) wife Norka, a comely and photogenic muse and fashion model (they later divorced).

In 1959, he traveled with the Cuban delegation to New York City and there showed Avedon his porfolio; Avedon advised him to stick with photographing the Revolution, which would have a greater impact than fashion photography.

Back in Cuba, Korda's empathetic turning point came when he went out to the Cuban countryside, taking pictures of the common people; especially photographing Paulita, which resulted in the above image, La niña de la muñeca de palo (1959).  Note how she is hugging a small wooden log as a doll substitute -- heartbreaking.

KordaVision continues to follow Korda's arc as a photographer; we follow him to the USSR with Fidel Castro, their visit with Nikita Khrushchev and onward. Much more recently, Korda and his compatriot photographers meet with Castro, an arrangement requested by Hector Cruz Sandoval, the director.

We see Korda during an exhibition in Chicago that also landed in Baltimore and L.A., near the end of his life. At the Chicago exhibit, Korda waxes poetic. "There are three things in life -- do you know the song? Health, money and love. Whoever has these three things should give tribute to God. With good health, one lives free from worries. That's why I want everyone to understand the chorus of the song:  'Whoever has (one) love, let him cherish it . . . Health and money, do not waste it.'"

Later, regarding the art of photography, Korda cites from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince / The Little Prince (1943): "You can only see with your heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes."  A fitting observation for a fascinating and wonderful film.

Today's Rune: Wholeness.


Erik Donald France said...

"He loved three things in this world — women, rum and the Cuban Revolution" -- Norka Mendez, 2001.

Lana Gramlich said...

Sounds really interesting. I'm going to have to see if I can check it out.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought that name sounded familiar. I've seen his Hemingway photos

jodi said...

Erik, interesting..I could steal and keep Paulina. At least get the poor waif a real doll. Heartbreaking. Enjoy the Feast, Erik--You know I will!