This iconic image of Che Guevara is widely known in many parts of the world. I see it used a lot by sociology students who are eagerly exploring their sociological imaginations. As far as visual sociology goes, this image continues to inspire interest in Marxist sociology and it is used frequently in political protests, such as the Occupy movement. Stephen Colbert even dressed as Che in spoof as he set out to Occupy Occupy Wall Street. Che’s image has also been amalgamated with the unofficial face of the Occupy movement, Guy Fawkes (hero of V for Vendetta) and repacked as an Occupy t-shirt.
So what’s the story behind this symbolic representation of Che as inspirational revolutionary? Well – it’s a convoluted legal tale. The image is known as “Guerrillero Heroico” (Heroic Guerilla). Alberto Korda photographed Guevara in Havana, Cuba, on March 5, 1960. Guevara’s face was captured during a funeral where Fidel Castro was commemorating the victims of the La Coubre explosion. Jim Fitzpatrick is the Irish artist who turned this image into a poster in 1968. He intended the image to be used as motivation by revolutionary groups. In February last year, Fitzpatrick said that he intends to copyright the image because of its “crass commercial” overuse. In the past, Korda sued an advertising agency that used the photograph to sell vodka and Korda’s daughter also banned the use of this image in a campaign that criticised the Cuban regime.
You want to know just what level of commercialisation Fitzpatrick and the Korda family object to? The Argentinian site Taringa! has done a great job of compiling products using Che’s likeness – including on cola bottles, key rings, and underwear. This image has also been used in graffiti and inspired art works and in other political protests around the world.
Read more about the controversy on Listverse and Art Knowledge News. The copyright case is ongoing today, reports Art Daily.
Top image: Listverse.
All other images: Taringa!