Meneses’s photographs of Castro and Che Guevara in the Sierra Maestra — where he camped with them in 1957-1958 — made the cover of Paris Match magazine and became images of reference for the uprising.
Meneses died on Sunday in Madrid’s La Paz hospital after a long illness, his longtime friend Annick Duval told AFP.
In his seven-decade career, Meneses covered conflicts such as the Suez crisis and the Bosnian war as well as founding and editing magazines and broadcasts.
“He was an extraordinary photojournalist but he was not just a photojournalist. He was a great journalist in every sense,” Duval said.
It was Meneses’s photos of the young rebels, on horseback and smoking cigars between skirmishes in the Sierra Maestra, that made his mark on history, his friends said.
“The first photographs from there were his, and they went around the world,” Duval said. “He was the one who made Fidel Castro’s revolution known.”
Duval recalled that when he came down from the mountains after four months, Meneses was arrested by the police of the dictator Fulgencio Batista and spent eight days in jail.
“But he had already managed to get his rolls of negatives out hidden in the underskirt of a girl who was leaving for Miami and his photos were able to reach Paris,” she said.
Meneses told AFP that he was beaten during his detention then expelled from Cuba, and never returned.
One of the photographs on his rolls from the Sierra shows Meneses himself smoking a cigar and standing with Fidel Castro and the leader’s brother Raul, who took over as Cuba’s president in 2008.
In the image, Castro too has a cigar in his hand and has grown his distinctive curly black beard, as various of the rebels did.
“When they wanted to shave them off, I said to Fidel, if you do that, my 2,000 negatives will be useless!” Meneses told AFP in 2007.
Another of his friends, the photojournalist Gervasio Sanchez, wrote in a tribute to Meneses: “I hope his death will serve to revive the name of one of the essential journalists of our history.”