Press Release


Korda Moda

October 02, 2013 – December 06, 2013

KCI Gallery (lower level)
Krause Center for Innovation
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
Directions / Campus Map

Ron Herman, 650-949-7082
Lori Thomas, 650-949-7258

The upcoming exhibit, Korda Moda, captures the evolution of Cuban fashion photography during the 1950s-1960s. Thirty photographs by Alberto Korda will be on display at the Krause Center for Innovation (KCI) Gallery, Foothill College, October 02, 2013 through December 06, 2013.

Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, known as Korda, is most famous for his image of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. This image, entitled Heroic Guerrilla, is the most reproduced image in the world. Prior to the revolution and shooting Heroic Guerrilla, Korda was a successful fashion photographer, defining the fashion photography aesthetic in Cuba. “The beauty of women was the first expression of my photography,” Korda said. This is the first exhibition dedicated to Korda’s fashion photography.

Havana was a booming tropical playground in the 1950s, where the rich and famous would fly into for the weekend to enjoy its music, nightclubs, gambling, and illicit nighttime activities. The city exuded glamour, and its socialites were dressed in the latest Parisian couture for the lavish parties and debutante balls.  Fashion was big business in Havana, and money was rolling in as fast as the airplanes could land. Even French Designer Christian Dior opened a salon inside Havana’s fashionable department store El Encanto.

“I wanted to become a famous fashion photographer because that way I would be able to meet the most beautiful women in Cuba, Korda said. His first challenge was to find models in Cuba whose physique resembled that which he saw on the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. “I had great difficulty finding a woman with classic lines…finally I met Norka,” he said, with whom he produced his most iconic fashion photographs. His three main models, Nidia Rios, Norka (Natalia Méndez), and Norma Martínez, all had European looking features, which lended themselves to the particular aesthetic of beauty that Korda wanted to achieve. Korda quickly took command of the genre and became Cuba’s premier fashion photographer, often being referred to as the Cuban (Richard) Avedon.

The role of fashion in Cuba drastically changed after Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959. After Castro called for a “love of that which is ours, of our Patria, of our things,” Cuban became the dominant fashion motif. Cotton replaced dacron as the fabric of choice and clothes bore a “Made in Cuba” label.  The changing political and social climate can be seen reflected in Korda’s photographs from this period. Korda infused the conventions of fashion photography already established by Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, and Erwin Blumenfield with a Caribbean aesthetic, one that was distinctly Cuban.

On March 5, 1960, Korda shot the iconic photo of Che Guevara while photographing the public funeral of the victims of the bombing of the Belgian ship La Coubre with his Leica M2 camera, 90mm lens and Kodak Plus-X Pan film. “The Che photograph is a fashion photograph,” said former model Nidia Rios. Korda agreed that his images of the Revolution share the same sense of beauty as his fashion photography. “A man who develops a work like mine is always dedicated to something he loves,” he said. “I did that from the very beginning. I have loved the beauty of women as much as the beauty of those men who led the Revolution. The beauty of those men is not only aesthetic but also moral. Loving, as I did, the work I made with men like Castro and Che Guevara, you can see the similarities between both types of photography.”

Korda’s studio was nationalized on March 14, 1968, and all of his negatives were confiscated and removed to an undisclosed location. It is believed that only his negatives from the Cuban revolution have been preserved and the others, particularly those of elitist fashion, were tossed or destroyed.

This exhibition and accompanying catalog were done in 2013 in celebration of Korda’s 85th and Norka’s 75th birthdays, held respectively on September 14th and October 23, 2013.

There will be a special lecture on October 02, 6-7 pm in Room 1501, Appreciation Hall. Diana Dîaz López, Korda’s daughter and head of the Korda Estate, and Professor Ron Herman, Curator of the exhibition, will discuss the life and photographs of Alberto Korda with a special screening of the short film Simply Korda. Following the film there will be a guided walk to the opening reception 7:30-9:30 pm at the Krause Center for Innovation (KCI) Gallery.

Professor Ron Herman, will be giving a lunchtime gallery talk on October 23, 12-1pm in the Krause Center for Innovation (KCI) Gallery. He will discuss the images of Korda’s most famous model, Norka, to commemorate her 75th birthday on this day.

The exhibit is located in the KCI Gallery, on the lower level of the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022. Parking is $3.00 (quarters or $1 bills only). Please park in Lot 4. Disabled parking in Lot 4-B. KCI hours of operation are Monday – Friday: 7:30am – 8:30pm; Saturday: 9am – 5pm; Closed on Sundays and for holidays on November 11 and 28.

For more information on the exhibit, view the exhibit blog,

Full resolution photos available.
Please contact: Ron Herman, 650-949-7082.


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