René Burri was born in Zurich in 1933. When he was 13 years old, he photographed Winston Churchill while the Englishman was in Switzerland on a state visit. Three years later, he entered the Zurich school of applied arts (Kunstgewerbeschule), which he attended until 1953. He made contact with the Magnum agency, of which he became a member in 1959 and president in 1982. From the Suez crisis in 1956 to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, René Burri travelled the globe for Life, Look, Paris-Match, Epoca, The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times, Stern, DU… His production of images is incredible – and his career uncommon. He has worked as a correspondent in Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. He spent six months in Latin America, then left for Japan. He has also made numerous portraits of artists: Pablo Picasso, Oscar Niemeyer, Alberto Giacometti, Maria Callas, Jean Tinguely, Oskar Kokoschka, Jean Renoir and Luis Barragan. In 1963, he created a major feature in Cuba where he met Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. In 1965 he travelled to China for five months. He made a documentary film for the BBC while continuing his career as a photographer. In 1967 he covered the Six-Day War, and saw his work exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute. He has made several documentary films, to include a short subject on Jean Tinguely which he shot in 1972. He covered the conflicts of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, then the violence in Beirut during the 80s. In 1984, the Zurich Kunsthaus devoted a major retrospective show to his work:
“One World – Thirty Years of Photography”. Many exhibitions and retrospective shows followed: in Zurich, Bern, Basel and Lausanne, and in Paris, New York, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Lima, Barcelona, Lisbon, Milan, Prague, Havana and Moscow. In 2011, the Swiss Press Photo Award was presented to René Burri in recognition of his entire career.
René Burri lived and worked in Zurich and Paris.