On 5 March 1960, Alberto Gutierrez took one of the most iconic photographs of the twentieth century. The occasion was a memorial service in Havana for crew members of a Belgian arms cargo ship killed in an attack for which Cuba blamed counter-revolutionary forces aided by the US. The subject was Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
Forty years later, Gutierrez, who goes by the professional name Alberta Korda, was surprised and furious to see his picture of Che in an advertisement for Smirnoff Vodka. ‘To use the image of Che Guevara to sell vodka is a slur on his name and memory,’ he declared. ‘He never drank himself, he was not a drunk and drink should not be associated with his immortal memory.’ An organisation describing itself as the Cuba Solidarity Campaign filed a claim on his behalf at the High Court in London. It accused UK advertising agency Lowe Lintas and picture agency Rex Features of trivialising the photo’s historical significance by combining it with a hammer and sickle motif with a chilli pepper substituted for the sickle. In 2000, Gutierrez/Korda accepted a substantial out of court settlement.