René Burri (Swiss, 1933–2014) was a photographer, known for his images of important historical, political, and cultural events of the 20th century. Born in Zurich, Burri attended the School of Applied Arts, where he worked under renowned photographers Hans Finsler and Alfred Willimann, as well as Expressionist painter Johannes Itten. After graduating, Burri served in the military, and experimented with documentary filmmaking, briefly working in film production for Walt Disney in Switzerland. He became an associate of Magnum Photos in 1955, and received international attention for his series on deaf-mute children, Touch of Music for the Deaf, published in LIFE magazine that same year. Between 1956 and 1959, he traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, and was published in LIFE, The New York Times, Stern, Paris-Match, and Look. During this time, he also photographed prominent artists, including Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti. Burri became a full member of Magnum in 1959, and continued to build a reputation as a photojournalist. Burri published his first book, Die Deutschen, in Switzerland in 1962, and held his first solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1963. That same year, while working in Cuba, he photographed Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. His image of Guevara smoking a cigar became world renowned, and is arguably the most recognizable portrait of the famous revolutionary. Burri opened Magnum Gallery in Paris in 1962, and continued to work as a photographer and made collages and drawings. He participated in the creation of Magnum Films in 1965, and then spent time in China, where he made the documentary The Two Faces of China, which was produced by the BBC in 1968. Burri received numerous awards, including the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1991, a Dr. Erich Salomon Prize from the German Photography Society in 1998, a Canton of Zurich Cultural Prize in 1999, an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2006, and the Swiss Press Photo Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. A large retrospective of his work was held in 2004 and 2005 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and subsequently traveled to museums throughout Europe. Burri died in Zurich after a long battle with cancer at the age of 81.
+ 01. Che Guevara, Havana, Cuba, 1963