Iconic Images of War
See also: The History of Photography as a Fine Art
Che Guevara, by photographer Alberto Korda
Doctor Ernesto Che Guevara joined revolutionaries in order to save lives, but during a historic battle he laid down his scalpels and his medicine and took up arms, becoming a symbolic freedom fighter. The photograph of him by Alberto Korda is considered to be the most iconic image in human history.
The man who made Ernesto Che Guevara an icon, his image of Che Guevara became one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century Cuban photographer Alberto Korda, who died on May 25, 2001 of a heart attack aged 72 while visiting Paris for an exhibition of his work, will be best remembered for his portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara.
Born in Havana on Sept. 27, 1928, the son of a railway worker, the young Mr. Korda had a variety of jobs before he started working as a photographer's assistant. He was a runner for a bookmaker and a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. He took up photography with frankly macho motives: "My main aim was to meet women," he once confessed.
"I wanted to be near beautiful women." He succeeded by marrying Cuba's most beautiful model of the day, Niurka, although his three marriages ended in divorce. Naturally charming and ebullient, the diminutive and wiry Mr. Korda soon established himself as a successful fashion photographer, changing his surname from Diaz Gutierrez to that of the British filmmaker Alexander Korda because it sounded like "Kodak" to his Cuban ear. He soon had his own studio in Havana and an expensive playboy lifestyle.
Like so many of his compatriots, his life was transformed by the Cuban revolution of 1959. On an assignment in the countryside soon after the guerrillas defeated dictator Fulgencia Batista, he encountered such poverty that he was converted to the revolutionary cause. He began to follow the new Cuban leaders around, offering his photos to the newspaper Revolucion, whose offices were close to his studios. He spent 10 years as Fidel Castro's official photographer, using his skills to humanize the revolutionary leader's image in off-duty scenes, sharing moments with Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre, or confronting a caged tiger at the New York Zoo.
It was while on an assignment for Revolucion in 1960 that Mr. Korda took the famous photo of Mr. Guevara at a protest rally after a Belgian freighter carrying arms to Cuba was blown up by counterrevolutionaries while being unloaded in Havana harbour, killing more than 100 dock workers. As he later recalled, it was a damp, cold day.
Using a 90-millimetre lens, he was panning his Leica across the figures on the dais when Mr. Guevara's face jumped into the viewfinder. The look in Che's eyes startled Mr. Korda so much that he instinctively lurched backward, and immediately pressed the button: There appears to be a mystery in those eyes, but in reality it is just blind rage at the deaths of the day before, and the grief for their families. Ironically, Mr. Korda's picture was relegated to an inside page of Revolucion, which gave pride of place to Fidel Castro. The original remained on the wall of Mr. Korda's studio until 1967, when he gave two eight-by-10 prints of it as a gift to the left-wing Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli the man who first published Dr. Zhivago in the West and who was blown up by a car bomb in 1972. A few weeks later, Mr. Guevara was captured and killed in Bolivia and became an instant martyr. When Fidel Castro addressed a memorial rally in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion, Mr. Korda's photo was used as a mural on the building facing the podium. It is still there. Mr. Feltrinelli instantly spotted the value of the image, using one print for the cover of Mr. Guevara's diaries and giving the other to the makers of the posters that were soon being carried through the streets of Europe in the protest marches of 1968.
This image of Mr. Guevara, noble and defiant, with tilted beret and flowing locks, rapidly spread to T-shirts and album covers and was soon taken up by advertisers targeting youth until it rivalled the Mona Lisa as perhaps the most replicated image ever. But Mr. Korda received no royalties; Mr. Feltrinelli had used the photo without permission and even failed to credit Mr. Korda as the photographer. In any case, Mr. Korda had no remedy until Cuba rejoined the international copyright convention in 1997.
Finally, angered when the image appeared in a Smirnoff advertisement in Britain, Mr. Guevara never drank he asked the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to help him sue Smirnoff's advertising agency, Lowe Lintas, and the picture library, Rex Features, for infringement. By happy coincidence, he received the news of an out-of-court settlement on his birthday last year, during a visit to London for the Cuba, Si! exhibition of photography at the National Theatre. He immediately handed over an undisclosed sum to buy much-needed medicine for Cuban children. A lifelong smoker and rum drinker, Mr. Korda told marvellous anecdotes of the ascetic revolutionaries. "Once, I had to take pictures of Che cutting cane with the workers," he said. "He made me work for a week cutting cane before he'd let me take a shot. He was hard that way."
From 1968 to 1978, Mr. Korda concentrated on underwater photography until a Japanese exhibition in 1978 stimulated international interest in his work.
From the early 1980s, he lived in modest semi-retirement, although he accompanied Mr. Castro on a recent visit to Venezuela and Mexico.
In 1999, he appeared in the pre-title sequence of Wim Wenders's documentary Buena Vista Social Club, rifling through photos from the heroic early days here is Mr. Guevara, for example, playing golf with Mr. Castro "Who won?" "Fidel, because Che let him." which ends with an image of a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy that Alberto Korda called David and Goliath. For some reason, Mr. Wenders fails to credit him. Alberto Korda leaves two sons and two daughters. Speaking in Havana late last year, he said: Life may not have granted me a great fortune in money, but it has given me the even greater fortune of becoming a figure in the history of photography.
The Normandy Landing, by film-maker Russ Meyer
Russ Meyer had been a film-maker ever since his youth when his mother sold her wedding ring and bought him a film-camera. He won many amateur contests and later became a combat film-maker during WWII.
He met Ernest Hemingway in Paris and reportedly lost his virginity to a French prostitute (which Hemingway paid for).
After WWII, Meyer worked for Playboy Magazine and eventually started making his own movies. He invented the words "softcore" and "hardcore", and was a legend within the film-making business. He pioneered the use of "sex and violence" in his movies, using it create social commentary about war, drugs, sex and american life.
His most famous movie is "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!". His movies themselves have become quite iconic with other directors copying his style of "sex and violence". For example, Quentin Tarantino's movies "Kill Bill" (Volume 1 & 2) are based on "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!".
Russ Meyer died in 2004.
The Killing Fields, Vietnam, by photographer Huynh Cong Ut
On June 8th, 1972, nine-year-old Kim Phuc Phan Thi's village near Trang Bang Vietnam was hit by South Vietnamese bombers in an American-ordered attack. In one of the world's best-known photographs, Kim, who took a direct hit, is shown running naked down a road, screaming in agony from the napalm that covered her body. It took many years, and 17 operations, to save her life. In 1993, Kim defected to Canada in order to escape her past and take control of her life. Today, she is a mother of two.
For the photographer, it all started on June 8th, 1972, when a South Vietnamese fighter plane swooped in on a cluster of its own soldiers, and some women and children, opened fire and dropped napalm on civilians. Photographer Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut happened to be in the right place at the right time that day, and captured the group as they attempted to flee the cloud of burning napalm behind them. His photo was seen on the cover of Time Magazine later that month, and is still remembered today as one of the most infamous images of the Vietnam War.
Before delivering his film with the Kim Phuc photo, he took her to the hospital. Horst Faas ordered the photo transmitted despite the AP bureau's debate about transmitting a naked girl's photo over the wire. He had became a photographer when he was 16 years old, pressed into service during hard times. His older brother (also a photographer) was killed during the Vietnam War. Ut earned the Pulitzer prize for his photograph.
Wounded three times in Vietnam, Ut has since worked for the Associated Press in Tokyo, South Korea, and Hanoi and still maintains contact with Kim Phuc. He still works for the AP, but now at their Los Angeles bureau. Today he is a United States citizen, and is married with two children.
United States Censorship, by painter Charles Alexander Moffat
Born in 1979, Moffat studied painting and photography at York University in Toronto Canada. Not long after September 11th, 2001, he painted what would become the iconic painting of the era that followed. The exact date the painting was made was September 21st, 2001.
In interviews, Moffat said he was inspired by protestors, one of which was wearing an US flag bandanna across their face. They were protesting against security changes and censorship that the Bush administration was pushing. He didn't have time to photograph it, but remembered it strongly and decided to reproduce the image from memory.
The image was later reproduced online and has become a central image in the anti-war movement that followed September 11th. Moffat's career is not limited to one piece however, he has created a variety of portrait paintings which within themselves look iconic and are wildly popular. His "Blue Lilith" painting from 1999 is very popular.
US Tortures Iraqi, photographed by Unknown US Soldier
Three images from the US torture chambers stood out from the rest of hundreds of photos taken by US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
The prison contained over 7000 prisoners during its peak period of 2003-2004, during which many of them were tortured by American troops.
After the Iraq War was "officially" over, it was renamed the "Baghdad Central Confinement Facility". After the photo scandal hit the news it was renamed "Camp Redemption".
At least one prisoner was killed during the torture that took place. Manadel al-Jamadi, died as a result of abuse, a death that was ruled a homicide by the military.
Rumours abound that there are many more who were executed and secretly buried. Iraqi families claim that their husbands and sons were taken to Abu Ghraib prison, and never returned. US prison records show that no such people ever came to the prison, sparking rumours that the records have been routinely falsified and that people were also executed routinely.
Its unknown which soldier(s) took the three photographs shown here. The US investigation of what took place in Abu Ghraib prison is still in effect and not all the details have been released.
What is known is that it was a turning point for support for the Iraq War, which dropped to 40% within the United States and has continued to drop ever since.
The shocking thing is that many Americans actually approve of the photos and think "we should torture Iraqis!". Which reminds people of the American saying: "Shoot'em all and let God sort'em out!"
Americans have apparently forgotten the lessons of Vietnam, the lessons of 9/11... or perhaps they never learned those lessons in the first place. They never asked "Why did this happen?" Sadly, many Americans would rather ignore the problems in the world around them, hoping that it will never affect them. Ignorance is bliss.