Alberto Korda was known for admitting without shame that his approach to photography was influenced by the beauty of women. Such was his passion that he made it his goal to become a famous fashion photographer in order to meet the most beautiful women in Cuba. His skills were self-taught, watching mentors such as Mario Naranjo and Newton Estapé at work.
Although his first photos taken in 1946 were of his then fiancée Yolanda, it was not until 1953 that he began to take photography seriously. With his first wife, Julia and his daughter Diana, he practiced using the camera in natural light, to create an “ambience or glamor” with naturalness, composition codes and the elegance of long exposures.
In 1954, along with his associate Luis, he created Korda Studios in the La Metropolitana building in Old Havana. Realizing that his studio would better be located in the heart of the action, he moved to a modern building opposite the Hotel Capri in the center of Vedado two years later, in 1956.
He also made a small change to the name and from then on his operation was known as Studios Korda. In little time the studio rose to fame and Havana's most beautiful young women were photographed there, among them Nida Rivers and Norka, an elegant and attractive young woman with a singular physical and theatrical aesthetic in line with Korda's ideal of fashion photography, very much influenced by his photographic hero, acclaimed North American photographer Richard Avedon.
Notwithstanding this influence, Korda's attitude was bold and innovative. He used locations that were unusual for the era, derelict buildings, beaches, lagoons and casinos. His use of a cemetery as a location in those days was rare to say the least. He also peppered his images with particular details, contrasting his subject with a palm leaf, a neoclassical column, a ship. Studios Korda became became a successful business and Korda was considered Cuba's foremost fashion photographer.
Following the revolution in 1959, fashion and publicity came to be seen as “petit-bourgeois relics” and there was scarce demand for this type of work. Korda channelled his passion for the female form into photographing beautiful women in new contexts: in crowds, at agricultural mobilizations, on sugarcane harvests and at official events.
His career came full circle when he returned to the elegance and sophistication of the fashion world of at a photography conference in Sao Paulo in December, 2000. But five months later Cuba's most versatile photographer died in Paris. Remembered in Cuba and the world over, Alberto Korda was a passionate lover of fashion and female beauty.