The camera that may have been used to capture arguably the most famous image of all time has sold for $20,340.
The Leica camera belonged to Alberto Korda, who was Fidel Castro’s personal photographer for more than a decade. However, it was when on the payroll of the Cuban newspaper Revolución that Korda captured the image of Che Guevara that has been emblazoned on posters and t-shirts worldwide.
The image was captured on 5th March, 1960 when Guevara momentarily shared the stage with Castro as he gave a speech. Korda managed a portrait and a landscape shot, which his son Dante Diaz Korda claims are likely to have been captured on the Leica. Diaz Korda wrote on the auction website page listing the camera: “This camera was one of the favourite cameras of my father. My father actively used this camera in the fifties and sixties and kept it the rest of his life. That’s why it’s likely that my father took with this camera one of the world’s most famous photo’s ever made. The iconic image of the freedom fighter Che Guevara.”
The auctioneer hosting the sale, Catawiki, gave the camera an estimate of between $5,620 and $8,990. However, it smashed this. It was sold with a certificate of authenticity and provenance from Diaz Korda, but the buyer has not been listed.
Born Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez on 14 September 1928 in Havana, Cuba, Korda dabbled in studio photography and then enjoyed success as a fashion photographer before the Revolution in Cuba. He said of this monumental event: “Nearing 30, I was heading toward a frivolous life when an exceptional event transformed my life: The Cuban Revolution. It was at this time that I took this photo of a little girl, who was clutching a piece of wood for a doll. I came to understand that it was worth dedicating my work to a revolution, which aimed to remove these inequalities.”
Korda travelled the world capturing the leaders of the revolution. However, his most iconic image became so after Guevara’s death. Photography legend has it that Korda had given two prints of the image to an Italian publisher called Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. It was he who sold the image worldwide while Korda made not a penny from it. Korda died in 2001 and is buried in Havana. His legacy, as well as his images, was the mantra that a photographer’s eye and passion is paramount above his kit: “Forget the camera, forget the lens, forget all of that. With any four-dollar camera, you can capture the best picture.” His Leica, however, is now an object of fascination and historical import as it did, indeed, captured one of the best pictures in the history of photography.