Categories
Biographies

Raúl Corrales Fornos, an important Cuban Photographer

In history, there have been people who left a mark in their nations. And Raúl Corrales is one of those that were known for its political career, but at the same time he left an artistic legacy in the Cuba that we cannot ignore. Today, we are going to travel to the past and talk about Corrales, his life and his career.

This man was known by the full name of Raúl Corrales, and he was remembered as an important Cuban photographer. He was born in Ciego de Ávila (a city in the central part of Cuba, 423km far from la Havana) in rural Cuba. Then he moved to la Havana as a child with his mother and brothers. His father moved to the capital years later.

Corrales worked as a “tonguero” (the way newspaper vendors are called there), soon after as a shoeshine boy and then as a janitor. Soon, this man would know that there was a cleaning job in Cuba Sono Film, a company of the Partido Socialista Popular. The company used to work for political events granting pictures and movies for political acts. Corrales liked to take pictures as a hobby, so he felt confortable with the place because of this. In this place, he would eventually know photographers like Paco Altura, José Tabio and two more professionals in this area with the last name of Viñas. Sorrounded by a those experts, Corrales would soon be greatly influenced by them.

Although taking pictures was more like a hobby for him, he grew more and more interested on it – learning throughout his experiences and in the process, starting to think professionally about his works in photography. He then worked in the newspaper Hoy, after finishing his job in Cuba Sono Film. Since then, he would be working as a photographer for the rest of his life.

In 1953, Corrales lost his job as a photographer in the newspaper because of the attacks of the Moncada’s headquarters. He then joined with Oscar Pino Santos, one of the writers in his last job, and worked together. They started to write for the Bohemia’s magazine but this one was inconsistent in the amount of writings it accepted from Corrales and Pino Santos, and they desesperatedly needed the job because of their economical necessities.

Eventually, Miguel Angel Quevedo would buy the Bohemia, and would create a new one called Carteles. In it, Pino Santos and Corrales would be collaborating consistently, writing two news per week. But their salary was pityful, and they needed to improve their economic situation. Furthermore, during a police raid in the late 1950s almost all of Corrales photographic work was destroyed.

After the Revolution of 1959 he joined the Communist Party of Cuba. Corrales would work as the director of photography of Siboney, and in 1959 he started to be the photographer of Fidel Castro. This position would give notorious prestige since then. He worked for Fidel Castro for many years.

One of the common traits of his works is that he used to photography poor peasants and workers. One of his most recognized pictures is one of a young Fidel Castro, taken in April, 1961 when he had been in power for two years, when he was shooting his rigle at a boatload of Cuban exiles during the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion.

He also collaborated in magazines like Revolución and INRA. In 1961 he was one of the founders of the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC) and, from 1964 to 1991, he was the boss of the microfilms and photography of the Office of Historical Affairs, helping to preserve and organize the Castro dictatorships documentary and photographic legacy.

In his art, Corrales’ photograph El Sueño (1959) is considered a classic. It shows an exhausted guerrilla sleeping on a military cot under a framed portrait of a beautiful woman wearing a pearl necklace. One of the men imitates the woman’s pose while his rifle and his cap, resting on his groin, expresses erotism in concordance with the title of the picture.

One of the most important traits that we must say about Corrales is that his works are humble and honest. The shots have deep humanism in them. It did not matter for him to take pictures of precarious social sectors. He wanted to be direct in expressing the beastliness of people being happy with so little things.

Raúl Corrales Fornos finally passed away in April 15th, 2006 in la Havana. He is always going to be remembered not only for his political career, but for the identity of his work – that is filled with so much emotions and feelings of the Cuban people of the era. Corrales and his legacy taught us that every need of the people must be expressed in a simple, but humble and impactful way. His works will be with us forever.