RENE BURRI, Swiss, b. 1933
René Burri studied composition, color and design at the School for Arts and Crafts in his hometown of Zurich, Switzerland. After he became a photographer, he continued to pursue his earlier interests in writing and painting, combining all three in a series of diary-like collages.
From 1954-55 he worked as a documentary filmmaker for Walt Disney Film production in Switzerland. He began to use a Leica while doing his military service.
In 1955, Burri made contact with Magnum through Werner Bischof, and his first reportage on deaf-mute children, Touch of Music for the Deaf, was published in "Life" and other european magazines. He became an associate of Magnum in 1955 and a full member in 1959. Burri traveled through Europe and the Middle East on Magnum assignments, winning international attention with Die Deutschen (The Germans), an examination of post-war Germany and its people, which became his first book.
Not long after his European and Middle East tour, he spent six months in South America for his reportage on the gauchos, which was published at first in "Du".
Throughout the 1960s, Burri photographed artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Le Corbusier for "Du". In 1963, while working in Cuba, he made portraits of Fidel Castro and a young Che Guevara smoking a cigar that became iconic images. Burri continued to report from war zones in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s, and from Beirut in the 1980s. He shot a number of films including The Two Faces of China (for the BBC), a documentary on the religious consequences of the Six Days’ War in Israel and, in 1972, Jean Tinguely, on the swiss artist.
A retrospective exhibition in Zurich, Paris and Lausanne celebrated his book One World – 30 Years of Photography in 1984. The same year, Burri was elected European President of Magnum. In 1988, he was appointed Art Director of "Schweizer Illustrierte".In the 1990s, he published several books whose 77 Strange Sensations, Werner Bischof 1916-1954, Cuba y Cuba, and Che Guevara. A Photo Poche collection of Burri’s work was also in print, along with a Phaidon retrospective - Rene Burri - that coincided with the launch of an exhibition in Paris, Berlin, Lausanne, Milan, and Zürich in 2004/2005. Another Burri exhibition, Utopia, traveled to Prague