Many of his photographs are part of our collective visual memory – without a doubt, René Burri was one of the greatest photographers of our times. On Monday the Swiss photographer died in the age of 81. An obituary for an artist of the century.

When he was a little boy, he could catch five flies with one hand. Later, he couldn’t count all the photo awards he has received on one hand. His work spans six decades and every continent. Born in Switzerland in 1933, René Burri was a chronicler of world events, a portraitist of artists, celebrities and personalities, a living legend and an optimistic utopian. He was committed to making the world more interesting and beautiful. “I want to use my eyes, heart and mind to be part of the world, to capture what’s going on around me,” he mused. His images combine his personal curiosity together with a sense of responsibility – photographs that emerge from the midst of life. The most famous piece is a portrait of Che Guevara taken in 1962, but he has also taken iconic pictures of Picasso and Le Corbusier, including the architect’s work.

A full member of Magnum Photos since 1959, René Burri impacted 20th century photography like few others. Never satisfied with a simple form of visual documentation, the photographer was always looking for unique perspectives and aesthetically demanding solutions, resulting in multi-layered images with a spontaneous yet precise composition. In 2013, Leica Camera AG acknowledged the work of this keen-eyed master by granting him the Leica Hall of Fame Award.
The diversity offered by his outstanding work will be a constant source of delightful new discoveries. Looking back, Burri’s life was dedicated to photography – a life that has been eventful, successful, and above all, rich in good fortune. As he has often said, “photography for me has always been about good fortune.”
Leica Camera AG bids farewell to a good friend and a great photographer.
– Leica Internet Team