René Burri 1933-2014


While perhaps best known for his iconic images of Che Guevara and Pablo Picasso, René Burri’s body of work makes him one of 20th Century’s most important documentary photographers.

Burri ‘Never wanted to be a photographer but circumstance lead to it’.

René Burri said in an interview with Britain’s The Guardian: “A photograph is a moment, when you press the button, it will never come back.”

René Burri’s archive is a rich treasury of such moments.



René Burri was among many other things a travel photographer. Assignments took him to many exotic places, he would then often stay for extended periods after the assignment was finished.

Burri’s best known book is probably The Germans published in 1962. Being German speaking Swiss gave him valuable insight while still remaining the ‘outsider’ looking in.

It forms part an unofficial series with Robert Frank’s The Americans and Bruno Barbey’s The Italians.


René Burri combined the ability to blend into a crowd (while dressed in wide-brimmed Fedora and flowing white scarf) with fast photographic reflexes.

His ability to catch the moment honed in childhood ‘catching flies in flight’ on his Grandfather’s farm.

Though ready to grab fleeting moments he would often spend time to win the confidence of his subjects, saying ‘You must not come at it like a bulldozer’. Pictures shot in Korea in 1961 show an intimacy that demanded the subjects trust.

More about René Burri

See hundreds of his images from the archives of the world’s top photo agency Magnum

Watch a short interview with René talking about six of his images.

Read an interview where René talks about one of his most famous picture ‘Men on a Rooftop”

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