René Burri (born 9 April 1933, Zurich) is a Swiss photographer known for his photos of major political, historical and cultural events and key figures of the second half of the 20th century. Burri worked for Magnum Photos and has been photographing political, military and artistic figures and scenes since 1946. He has made portraits of Che Guevara and Pablo Picasso as well as iconic pictures of São Paulo and Brasília.
Burri studied in Zurich, Switzerland at the School of Applied Arts from 1949 to 1953, where he worked under Hans Finsler, Alfred Willimann and Johannes Itten. From 1953 to 1955 he began working as a documentary filmmaker while completing military service. During this time he also began working with Leica cameras. Then he worked for Disney as a cameraman until 1955. From 1956 to 1959 he traveled extensively to places including Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Brazil, and Japan, which led to publications in Life, Look, Stern, Paris-Match, Epoca, and New York Times, as well as a photographic essay "El Gaucho" which appeared in Du.
Burri first began working with Magnum Photos in 1955 through Werner Bischof, becoming a full member in 1959 and being elected chair of Magnum France in 1982. His first report "Touch of Music for the Deaf" on deaf-mute children was published by Life. In 1965 he assisted with the creation of Magnum Films which lead to his work on the Magnum-BBC joint production of, The Two Faces of China. In 1967 he produced a documentary on the Six-Day War in Jerusalem for German television. He produced the film Jean Tinguely in 1972.
In 1963 Burri was working in Cuba when he was able to photograph the revolutionary Che Guevara; these images of Guevara smoking a cigar have become iconic. Notably, after taking the photos, Burri remembers Guevara "scaring the hell out of him". Describing a situation where an angry Che was pacing his tiny office like "a caged tiger", while being interviewed by an American woman from Look magazine. While "hectoring" the reporter and "chomping on his cigar", Che suddenly looked Burri straight in the eye and told him "if I catch up with your friend Andy, I'll cut his throat" (while slowly drawing his finger across his neck). Andy was Andrew St. George, a fellow Magnum photographer, who had travelled with Che in the Sierra Maestra, and then later filed reports for American intelligence.
- 1998—Dr. Erich Salomon Prize by the German Photography Society-DGPh.
- 1999—Canton of Zurich cultural prize.
- 2006—Burri was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society in 2006. These are awarded to distinguished persons having, from their position or attainments, an intimate connection with the science or fine art of photography or the application thereof.
- 1966 « China », Galerie Form, Zurich
- 1967 « René Burri Retrospective », Art Institute, Chicago
- 1971 « 50 Photographies de René Burri », Galerie Rencontre, Paris
- 1972 « René Burri Retrospective », Raffi Photo Gallery, New York; Il Diaframma, Milan
- 1980/1981 « Die Deutschen », Folkwang Museum, Essen; Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne; Galerie Nagel, Berlin
- 1984/1985 « One World », Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich; Berner Photo-Galerie, Berne; Centre National de la Photographie et Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Musée des arts décoratifs, Lausanne (1985 - 1995 also in New Delhi, Havana, New York, Bratislava and Ostrava)
- 1987 « Dans la familiarité de Corbu », Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne. « An American Dream », International Center of Photography, New York
- 1994 « Dialogue avec Le Corbusier », Museo de arte moderno de Medellàn, Medellàn (1995 also in Curitiba, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Lima)
- 1995 « Le Paris de René Burri », Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris 1997 « Che », Fnac-Forum, Paris; Galerie R. Mangisch, Zurich (1997 - 2001 also in Barcelona, Lille and Lisbon)
- 1998 « 77 Strange Sensations », Villa Tobler, Zurich « Die Deutschen », Fotografie Forum International, Frankfurt (1998 - 2003 also in Kaufbeuren, Velbert, Toulouse and Burghausen)
- 2002 « Berner Blitz », Galerie Karrer, Zurich
- 2004 « René Burri - Rétrospective 1950-2000 » Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Musée de l’Elysée, Paris.
- 2005 Lausanne (also in Milan and Zurich) « René Burri: Utopia - Architecture et Architecte », Hermès Gallery, New York; Leica Gallery, Prague
- 2005 « René Burri: Photos de Jean Tinguely & Cie », Musée Tinguely, Basel « René Burri: Utopia - Architecture et Architecte », Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel
- 2010 « I tedeschi. La Germania degli anni Sessanta nelle fotografie di René Burri », Pordenone (Italy), Galleria Sagittaria, Centro Iniziative Culturali Pordenone
- René Burri Biography
- Magnum Photos profile of Burri
- A René Burri portfolio from Le Monde
- Audio interview with René Burri
- Ingrid, Che and Rene Burri - slideshow by The First Post
- Photographer René Burri's Best Shot by Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
- René Burri Retrospective at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam - images and video
- René Burri on The Brander - Creators of Brands
- Rene Burri in colour, BBC News