Jane’s post and the ensuing comments got me thinking about how certain images become attached to ideas, movements, people, philosophies and take on a kind of power that is sometimes as great as the power of words, greater than the idea, in fact. This is a topic that interests me both as an artist and as a graphic designer. Designers of logos, for example, hope for (pray for!) an image that will wield that power, but sometimes it just happens in an unplanned way.
I’ll bet you have seen this image:
You probably know that this is Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist, and one of the guerilla leaders of the Cuban Revolution. I am fascinated, not so much with Che himself, but with this image. While very familiar here in the US, it is ubiquitous in Latin America. At one time I thought I might start taking photos of every instance I saw in some of my travels and took these two photos in Mexico.
That was as far as my photo efforts went, but I continue to see this image as graffiti, on T-shirts, on backpacks, book covers and more. (That’s a lampshade in the photo on the left.) It is particularly popular with teenagers in Latin America. And so, I wonder what this means. The image of Che is clearly a symbol of revolution, but do these teenagers really know who he was, or is this just such an appealing image, coupled with the slightly dangerous look, that makes it so appealing?
The image comes from a photo taken taken in 1960 by Albert Korda and the high contrast graphic image was created by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick.
The appeal of the image is undeniable. Andy Warhol used the image for a serigraph and helped to further popularize it.
As graphic images go, I think this one is unusually riveting. The human face, they say, is the most compelling image there is and this one is graphic and expressive and beautiful in a clear, stark economy of line and form. I have thought about this and wonder if this image takes its power from its subject–the charismatic Che–or if the image lends its power to the legend and enduring interest in Che. I tend to believe it is the latter. I believe the power of that image is what keeps interest in the man alive.