Enrique Meneses: Acclaimed photojournalist

 

The uncanny ability of Enrique Meneses to be in the right place at the right time was never as evident as when he produced one of the 20th century's greatest examples of photo-reportage – the first by any journalist from Cuba's Sierra Maestra mountains of the incipient Communist uprising in 1957.

En route to Costa Rica to try to prevent a female cousin from being forced into a planned marriage, Meneses was instructed by one of his employers, Paris-Match, to stop off in Cuba because, as he was memorably told, "some hairy blokes are trying to start a little revolution. Take some pictures, it might be fun."

Never one to resist a challenge, with the assistance of Raul Castro's future wife, Vilma Espin – "Deborah", who headed the Communists' spy network – Meneses smuggled his cameras past checkpoints manned by President Batista's security forces in a crate of whisky. Then, passing himself off as one of the tens of thousands of Galician immigrants, he wangled his way behind the rebel lines, fell asleep in a hut and when awoke, found himself staring into the heavily bearded face of a man who introduced himself as Fidel Castro.

The result of his month-long time with the rebels were some of the most evocative pictures taken of Che Guevara and Castro – the latter riding a horseback mid-river with a rifle slung across his back, or both of them shaving or slumped in tents reading books by lamplight. Eventually smuggled out in the lining of a pair of women's corsets, the photographs earned Meneses a spell in Batista's prison when published. But they also were the first images taken by any journalist of a revolution that would inspire similar rebellions across the developing world throughout the second half of the 20th century, and gained Meneses a permanent niche in the history of photojournalism.

Meneses was born in Madrid in 1929; his sense of adventure became evident as early as 17 when he heard over the radio one evening that Spain's most legendary bullfighter, Manolete, was dying in a hospital after being gored in Linares, a city some 300 kilometres to the south. Meneses rushed out into the streets and hailed a taxi to take him to Andalusia, which cost him 450 pesetas – a small fortune in those days and three times what he earned from his report on Manolete, filed in the small hours on his return to Madrid to a small news agency. But the report launched his career.

For such a free spirit, there was little chance of his staying shackled under the grim censorship of Franco's Spain. As he told El País in his last interview, in November, "Spain was a sordid country, with coarse, provincial journalism, in which they only wrote about three things – football, bullfighting and soap operas. Maybe that's why I went for Manolete." In 1954 he went into self-imposed exile, buying a one-way ticket from Marseilles to Alexandria and then surviving in Egypt selling newspaper stories, taking photographs and teaching.

After that there was no stopping Meneses, with his temerity, huge personal charm and an obsession with getting eye-witness access to world events, no matter how dangerous. After a four-month, 27,000 kilometre odyssey from Cairo to Cape Town without taking a single plane flight to try to record the rapidly changing face of Africa in the 1950s, his reports and photography ranged from the Suez Crisis and Cuba to the 1963 March on Washington and wars in Angola, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. While working for Paris-Match he also published regularly in Life and The New York Times, as well as the newspaper ABC in Spain, later forming part of Spain's top reporting programmes, Los Reporteros.

In 1993 he lied to his partner Annick – "I didn't want her to worry" – and told her he was on a safari in Kenya, when in fact he was criss-crossing the streets of Sarajevo, unable to run from snipers' bullets because of encroaching emphysema but still determined to get as close to the action. This was partly due to his innate curiosity and was partly practical, given that, as he put it, "If you're two metres away, they're less likely to shoot you than if you're 200 metres away." By the time he retired, he had more than 15,000 photos in his archive, and not only of conflicts: actors such as Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston all featured.

Living on a tiny pension in Madrid and struck down with cancer for a third time, Meneses never gained the recognition he deserved. But he was surrounded by friends to his last days, became an active blogger and ran his Twitter account with 10,000 followers until a few days before he died.

He also wrote, among dozens of books, a biography called, with his typically laconic style, Hasta Aquí Hemos Llegado ["This is as far as we've got"]. The door to his 13th floor flat was always open to younger journalists; there he would happily pass on practical lessons. Perhaps the most important was that "if you realise the world is your home, you can work wherever you want."

Enrique Meneses, photojournalist: born Madrid 21 October 1929; married Barbara Montgomery (died 1977; one daughter); partner to Annick Duval (one son, one daughter); died Madrid 6 January 2013.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary