Che Guevara Photographer at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere

A broody portrait photograph of his bearded face – the Guerrillero Heroico by Alberto Korda – is quite possibly one of the most famous photographs ever taken, ensuring that Ernesto "Che" Guevara is still instantly recognisable as a symbol of revolution over 40 years since his execution in Bolivia in 1967. What is less well known about Che, perhaps, is that the man in that iconic photograph was a passionate and talented photographer himself, documenting his travels and the people he met with a ceaseless curiosity.

Ernesto Guevara - Self-portrait © Centro de Estudios Che Guevara
The Museo di Roma in Trastevere may be one of the smaller exhibition spaces in the city, but it is always well worth a visit, consistently presenting rewarding photography shows, and Che Guevara Photographer, consisting of 232 of his photographs, is another fine example. Opening with a series of black and white photographs taken in Guatemala, the exhibition then accompanies Che and his trusty Kodak to locations as far and wide as Mexico, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Spain, Japan and of course, Cuba. Ranging from the grainy street photography and photojournalism of his early years, to views of archaeological sites, and later images that record Cuba's industrial development, the photographer's constant concern with his own artistic investigation is clear from the careful framing of every shot and often surprising viewpoints. Whilst the prints are modern photographic copies created ​​from both Che's original negatives and positives, in both black and white and colour, many of them reproduce the fingerprints, scratches and water damage found on the original negatives with no attempt to clean them up, heightening their raw immediacy and preserving the authenticy of the images as Che created them.

Now safely archived at the Havana-based Che Guevara Studies Centre, this exhibition also makes one thankful that the photographs have survived at all, for what could be more personal or bring us closer to the man behind the myth than be able to see the world through his own eyes? Or, as in the case of his intimate self-portraits, see Che as he saw himself, or rather, wanted to be remembered for posterity. Recommended!

Che Guevara fotografo continues at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere until 11 September, 2011.