Speed Reads

RIP

Iconic Magnum photographer René Burri who captured Che Guevara dies at the age of 81

René Burri, a photographer with Magnum Photos, has died after a long illness. He was 81. A statement from his family says:

"With René Burri the world of photography loses one of its most powerful artists, a true humanist, who skillfully documented from behind the scenes the suffering and joy of human kind."

The Swiss photographer, born in Zurich in 1933, began work with the venerable photo agency in 1955 and became a full member in 1959. While Burri is best known for his portraits of Che Guevara and Pablo Picasso, his lifetime of largely black-and-white work reveals a talent for reacting quickly, capturing street scenes and moments that transcend time. The photographer attributed such nimbleness to growing up on his grandfather's farm, trying to catch flies in his hands.

In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Burri tells the story of how his Che Guevara portrait, photographed in Havana in 1963, came to be. It was a harried, three-hour session and the young revolutionary never once looked at Burri, who danced around him in the small, dimly lit office. Modest about his talents, Burri said the final, iconic shot was thanks to the man in front of the lens, not the one behind the camera.

"A photograph is a moment — when you press the button, it will never come back. This picture is famous thanks to the chap with the cigar, not to me."

Watch a short video of Burri sharing the back stories to six of his most captivating shots. --Lauren Hansen