Our Artists

René Burri

"When you’ve really managed to capture the vibration of life, then you can talk about a good photograph", René Burri.

René Burri began his career as a cameraman, then turned his mind to a variety of projects: making documentaries, films, photographic reports, publishing books, etc. He produced portraits of a number of personalities: Che Guevara, Picasso, Giacometti, Le Corbusier... These photographs helped to develop his reputation. From 1955, he worked with the well-known Magnum Photos agency.


Between 1949 and 1953, René Burri studied at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich under professors Hans Finsler, Alfred Willimann and Johannes Itten, who had a considerable influence over his later work.

Audiovisual career

Between 1954 and 1955, René Burri worked as a cameraman for Walt Disney Film Production in Switzerland.

Then, in 1965, he worked with Magnum Film, with the documentary The Two Faces of China, produced jointly with the BBC.

In 1967, he produced a documentary for German television about the religious consequences of the Six-Day War in Jeérusalem.

In 1970, René Burri co-produced and co-directed a film with Peter Amann about foreign workers in Switzerland, Braccia si – uomini no, which was awarded a prize by the Zurich Council.

He then produced the film Jean Tinguely in 1972.


René Burri began the Die Deutschen project in 1959. The book was published in German in 1962 by Robert Delpire, then in French in 1963, under the title Les Allemands by Delpire Editeur (Fretz & Wasmuth).

He produced photographs for the books: A l’Est de Magnum (1945-1990), Cuba y Cuba (1994), then Che Guevera (1997) in the Photo Poche Histoire collection (Nathan).

In 2004, the book René Burri: Photographs by Hans-Michael Koetzle was published by Phaidon Press, London.

Travel and reports

René Burri completed a report for the magazine Science & Vie, in 1955, on the teaching given to the deaf and dumb. His first publication in Life was called Touch of Music for the Deaf.

Between 1956 and 1958, he travelled in Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy France, Spain and Greece. He then spent six months in Latin America, preparing his photographic essay on El Gaucho, which appeared in the magazine Du.

From 1959, he travelled to Egypt again and to Brazil and Japan. He published a number of reports in Life, Look, Stern, Paris-Match, Epoca, Sunday Times, New York Times and Du.

In 1962, he travelled in the Near-East (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon).

In 1963 he produced a major report on Che Guevera for Look and met Fidel Castro. He then stayed in Washington (funeral of J.F.K.).

In 1964, René Burri published a report on the people’s China in Life.


Réné Burri’s first personal exhibition took place in 1967, at the Chicago Art Institute Museum.

The exhibition One World/Thirty years of photographs was presented in Zurich, Paris and Lausanne in 1984.

In 2004, a Major Retrospective was exhibited at the “Maison Européenne de la Photographie” (Paris). It was designed by Hans-Michael Koetzle in collaboration with René Burri. The exhibition was then presented in Berlin and Lausanne in 2004, Milan and Zurich in 2005 and Manchester in 2006. Since June 2007, the exhibition has been on tour in a number of Latin American countries: Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia.

In 2005, René Burri designed an exhibition on Jean Tinguely at the Musée Tinguely.

Collaboration with Magnum Photos

The first contact between René Burri and the Magnum Agency took place in 1955, following his report for the magazine Science & Vie.

In 1959, he was elected as a member of the Magnum Agency and, in 1982, became Chairman of Magnum France.


In 1998, René Burri was awarded the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize by the German Photography Society-DGPh.

In 1999, he was awarded the Canton of Zurich cultural prize.


See the photographs by René Burri on the website of the Magnum Photos agency.

See the works by René Burri on the website of the Magnum Photos agency.

Useful links

Further information about René Burri exhibitions

Further information about books on René Burri, or by René Burri, on Magnumphotos.com and Photada.com.

Find out more about René Burri’s book Un architecte de l'image. (An image architect)

Read the interview with René Burri "Che Guevara was like a lion in a cage" on the website Rue89.com.

Read the interview with René Burri on the website France5.fr.

A special report was dedicated to René Burri on Arte in 2004. 

René Burri 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Driving by the White House Prints and posters Che Guevara, Havana, Cuba, 1963 Prints and posters Pablo Picasso, Villa Californie, France, 1957 Prints and posters Cairo, Egypt, 1958

> Postcards

Postcards Picasso's owl, Villa Californie, France, 1957 Postcards Che Guevara, Havana, Cuba, 1963 Postcards Yasmine et David, La pagode de Chanteloup, Amboise, 1967

> Greeting cards

Greeting cards Love in the Sky Greeting cards Yasmine et David, La pagode de Chanteloup, Amboise, 1967

Nationality(ies) : Swiss
Born on : 09/04/1933
Profile : Photographer, Reporter
Artistic current(s) : Photojournalism
Theme(s) covered : Fine Art, Celebrities, Events, Policy, Portraits - Characters, Urban, World cities, Travel

René Burri

René Burri