You may have heard of the idea that all the people on Earth are six or fewer steps away from each other in a human chain of contacts. The “Six degrees of separation” theory. In June this year, I discovered I was three steps away from Che Guevara. The eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Guevara’s death on October 9, 1967, is as good an opportunity as any to write about my tenuous, but significant (to me) connection to him via one of the world’s most famous photographs.
Even if you’ve not heard about “six degrees of separation” there is a very good chance you’ll recognize this picture of Guevara:
“Guerrillero Heroico” (“Heroic Guerrilla Fighter”) by Alberto Korda is reputedly the most famous photograph in existence. And, it has also been reproduced more than any other image in the history of photography (source: Wikipedia).
The significance of the picture to me has nothing to do with politics, popularity, or the fact that I encountered the iconic image everywhere as a student in the seventies. It does, however, have everything to do with the photograph’s origins.
Until a short while ago, I knew nothing of the history of this picture. I do not recollect what lead me to research the photograph, but what I read was an absolute inspiration to me. I discovered that this ‘most famous picture of pictures’ was a processed crop of an undeniably poor original photograph. Korda’s genius was to spot the crop, and keep the previously rejected image for his personal collection. Inspiration indeed for any photographer who, as I mention elsewhere, does a lot of post-production work on their pictures.
What is my connection?
My connection to Che Guevara is rather mundane I’m afraid. In June 2017 Dante Korda, the son of the photographer Alberto Korda, signed up as a follower of my photographs on Flickr.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of strange people on Flickr to whom I do not want any connection. So I have a rule to always check on people who follow me or ‘fave’ my pictures. I ‘block’ anyone who has what I consider to be inappropriate content.
I had never heard of Dante Korda and the possible connection to Alberto Korda never occurred to me. Dante’s pictures were great, and his account seemed kosher — except for the mention of his relationship to Alberto Korda. Really? It took some internet searching and checking to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that Dante really was Korda’s son, and there he was following little ol’ me on Flickr. I’m just one of the thousands of people he follows, so I could not get overly excited about it.
The connection reminded me of my research into the “Guerrillero Heroico” picture and how it had inspired me when I needed it. I now had a connection — no matter how tenuous — with the actual photographer. And because of that, I have a connection to this picture and that moment in time, which did not exist before. It is an emotional connection that I cannot rationally explain or justify.
I don’t know why Dante Korda decided to follow my work, but I’m glad he did if only for the much deeper connection I now have with his father’s portfolio.
The two main pictures in this post were sourced from Wikipedia.
I was telling a friend my story, and he managed to not only produce a better story, but give me another three degrees of separation from Che Guevara. I knew my friend had visited Cuba many years ago, but I didn’t know that while he was there he met someone from Che Guevara’s entourage. Which means that whether they know it or not, there will be quite a few people here in Springfield with just three degrees of separation from Che Guevara.