The 5th of March 1960 the Belgian arms transport "La Coubre" exploded in Havana harbour, killing 136 people. As a staff-photographer at the Cuban newspaper "Revolution", Alberto "Korda" Gutierrez was assigned to cover the following memorial ceremony held in Havana. Among the prominent guests were Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Fidel Castro held one of his endless speeches and Korda was shooting away, when Che Guevara suddenly appeared on the stage. Korda pointed his Leica at Che and managed to shoot two frames of him, before Che turned around and disappeared.
Back in his darkroom Korda enlarged, among others, one of the Che frames. The editor at "Revolution" picked a Castro-picture for the newspaper and returned the rest. Korda liked the Che picture and put it on the wall in his Havana-studio.
The picture was still hanging on the wall in 1967, by now tobacco-tinted though, when a man knocked on the door. The person did not present himself, but handed over a letter of introduction from a high-ranking member of the Cuban administration. The letter asked Korda to help this person in his search for a good Che picture. Korda pointed at the wall saying: "This is my best Che picture". The visitor agreed and asked for 2 copies of the print. Korda told him to return the next day, which he did. When asked the price of the prints, Korda replied, that since the visitor was a friend of the revolution, he didn't have to pay.
What Korda didn't know, was that the visitor was the famous Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Well known in Europe for smuggling the "Dr. Zivago" manuscript out of The Soviet Union. Feltrinelli came to Cuba directly from Bolivia, where he had been negotiating the release of Regis Debray. Having learnt from Debray, that Che Guevara was the guerrilla-leader in Bolivia and that the end might be near, Feltrinelli saw a business opportunity in the possible assassination of Che.
The corpse of Che Guevara was hardly cold in Bolivia, before you could buy big posters, all around the world, with the Korda-image of Che. Copyright Feltrinelli it said, down in the corner. Korda told me, that in half a year, Feltrinelli sold 2.ooo.ooo posters. Later on the image has been transformed, transplanted, transmitted and transfigured all over the world.
Korda never received a penny. For one reason only - Cuba had not signed the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described the protection of intellectual property as imperialistic "bullshit".