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René Burri
René Burri

René Burri

Country: Switzerland
Birth: 1933 | Death: 2014

René Burri is a Swiss photographer known for his photos of major political, historical and cultural events and key figures of the second half of the 20th century. Burri worked for Magnum Photos and has been photographing political, military and artistic figures and scenes since 1946. He has made portraits of Che Guevara and Pablo Picasso as well as iconic pictures of São Paulo and Brasília.

Burri studied in Zurich, Switzerland at the School of Applied Arts from 1949 to 1953, where he worked under Hans Finsler, Alfred Willimann and Johannes Itten. From 1953 to 1955 he began working as a documentary filmmaker while completing military service. During this time he also began working with Leica cameras. Then he worked for Disney as a cameraman until 1955. From 1956 to 1959 he traveled extensively to places including Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Brazil, and Japan, which led to publications in Life, Look, Stern, Paris-Match, Epoca, and New York Times, as well as a photographic essay "El Gaucho" which appeared in Du.

Burri first began working with Magnum Photos in 1955 through Werner Bischof, becoming a full member in 1959 and being elected chair of Magnum France in 1982. His first report "Touch of Music for the Deaf" on deaf-mute children was published by Life. In 1965 he assisted with the creation of Magnum Films which lead to his work on the Magnum-BBC joint production of, The Two Faces of China. In 1967 he produced a documentary on the Six-Day War in Jerusalem for German television. He produced the film Jean Tinguely in 1972.

In 1963 Burri was working in Cuba when he was able to photograph the revolutionary Che Guevara; these images of Guevara smoking a cigar have become iconic. Notably, after taking the photos, Burri remembers Guevara "scaring the hell out of him". Describing a situation where an angry Che was pacing his tiny office like "a caged tiger", while being interviewed by an American woman from Look. While "hectoring" the reporter and "chomping on his cigar", Che suddenly looked Burri straight in the eye and told him "if I catch up with your friend Andy, I'll cut his throat" (while slowly drawing his finger across his neck). Andy was Andrew St. George, a fellow Magnum photographer, who had travelled with Che in the Sierra Maestra, and then later filed reports for American intelligence.

Source: Wikipedia


René Burri studied at the School of Applied Arts in his native city of Zurich, Switzerland. From 1953 to 1955 he worked as a documentary film-maker and began to use a Leica while doing his military service.

Burri became an associate of Magnum in 1955 and received international attention for one of his first reportages, on deaf-mute children, Touch of Music for the Deaf, published in LIFE magazine.

In 1956, he traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East and then went to Latin America, where he made a series on the Gauchos that was published by Du magazine in 1959. It was also for this Swiss periodical that he photographed artists such as Picasso, Giacometti, and Le Corbusier.

He became a full member of Magnum in 1959, and started work on his book Die Deutschen, published in Switzerland in 1962, and by Robert Delpire the following year with the title Les Allemands.

In 1963, while working in Cuba, he photographed Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara during an interview with an American journalist. His images of the famous revolutionary with his cigar appeared around the world.

Burri participated in the creation of Magnum Films in 1965 and afterwards spent six months in China, where he made the film The Two Faces of China produced by the BBC. He opened the Magnum Gallery in Paris in 1962, while continuing his activities as a photographer; at the same time, he made collages and drawings.

In 1998, Burri won the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize from the German Association of Photography. A big retrospective of his work was held in 2004-2005 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and toured many other European museums.

René Burri passed away at the age of 81 on October 20, 2014.

Source: Magnum Photos

 

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Sean Perry: When I was younger I didn't know or have access to any professional photographers, but I really loved movies and looked at a lot of books. At that time I got into music and everything else was just secondary. As a musician I always thought about pictures and the visual atmosphere great songs provoke and in my thirties I started photographing and haven’t stopped. AAP: Where did you study photography? With whom? SP: I don’t have a formal background studying photography but it’s not quite right to say I'm self taught either. One of my old bandmates, Jeff Miller is a brother to me, a great photographer and my first teacher - I learned about cameras, making good pictures and printing in the darkroom. That experience was also my first big introduction to contemporary artists like Joel-Peter Witkin and The Starns. I later had important mentors in a photographer I assisted for, Frank Curry and a sculptor who has had a tremendous influence on me as an artist and photographer, John Christensen. AAP:Do you have a mentor? SP: I have a few friends and colleagues who I admire and trust that I ask for insight and guidance with various things... Elizabeth Avedon, Jace Graf, Stephen Clark - there are others. I ask different people, different questions for different reasons if that makes sense. I think it's important to deeply consider who you ask and why. I've been a client of Mary Virginia Swanson for many years and her savvy is always invaluable, I truly owe her a great deal. I'm always learning and seeking out the chance to improve and grow. AAP: How long have you been a photographer? SP: I have been making pictures consistently since 1996 and started working professionally in 1998. AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it? SP: What I remember most are the pictures that when I saw the film, they made me feel that the image was somehow better, or more than my capability at the time. It would lead to months of chasing and trying to catch up to the image. The first time that happened was of a barren tree in the wintertime, backlit. I remember making the other pictures from that time, but the experience of seeing something unexpected back on the contact sheets always sticks with me as meaningful. AAP: What or who inspires you? SP: Music always. Also the discovery and study of people that give themselves to their pursuits with the discipline and heart to be excellent. New York City. Late fall leading to snow and cold weather makes me happy. AAP: How could you describe your style? SP: A little romantic but not sentimental - sci-fi but not overtly conceptual. I always work to make beautiful images and objects that don’t apologize for their consideration of aesthetic and design. My experience has taught me there is a strange, small line between beautiful and pretty, arbitrary and yet often substantial. I think my favorite word or aim for my work is earnest, and hopefully elegant. I try to be consistent and to quote someone I deeply respect, Paul Rand – "Don’t try to be original, just try to be good." AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? SP: I’m fluent in digital tools and use them to manage images online etcetera, but I have used the same camera gear for over twelve years. Hasselblad 501CM with a 120mm lens and 25A Red filter. Tri-X film in A12 backs. Processed in D76, 1 to 1. Silver gelatin prints bleached and then toned in combinations of sepia and selenium or platinum–palladium prints from enlarged negatives. AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? SP: I tend to run film and then not look at it for a while.... I then go through the contact sheets and make work prints of the things that seem to have promise. 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When you are disappointed, try to understand why specifically – was it a technical mistake your effort and experience will resolve over time or was it about vision in what you could or could not see at that moment. The technical things are usually easier to improve upon, I have found the other takes additional perseverance and courage. For myself there is always the confrontation of closing the distance between the potency I’m after and the many challenges at hand while guiding it there. I think the biggest secret is simply not to quit. AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid? SP: Everyone is different, so very hard to say. I believe one truth for myself has been it’s more valuable to invest time in what your pictures, your life, your point of view are all about and less energy worrying about the urgency sometimes encouraged in technology and shorter term concerns. Play long ball. AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? 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AAP: Your worst souvenir as a photographer? SP: My checking account. AAP: If you could have taken the photographs of someone else who would it be? SP: It's an interesting question but it reminds me of a rock & roll story, urban legend I remember as a kid and recently retold in Esquire Magazine. When Van Halen was touring in the late 70’s they were opening for Ted Nugent who admired Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone. Among other things, Eddie would hide one of his effect pedals (a tape echo) in an old bomb casing, adding to the mystery of his great tone and why he sounded the way he did. Everyone believed he had a "magic" black box. During sound check, Ted Nugent got the chance to play through Eddie’s rig and was disappointed to discover his guitar tone was unchanged – he sounded like he always did and whatever he loved about Eddie's tone was in his hands and not in the gear. I think photographs are like that, there are many pictures I would be thrilled if I had produced but in the end I can only make what is in my hands and heart. The images I love that others have made don't represent my life and could never belong to me. I remain a fan and audience to my heroes, happily so.
Eugène Atget
France
1857 | † 1927
Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862, and his mother, Clara-Adeline Atget née Hourlier died shortly after. He was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bordeaux and after finishing secondary education joined the merchant navy. Atget moved to Paris in 1878. He failed the entrance exam for acting class but was admitted when he had a second try. Because he was drafted for military service he could attend class only part-time, and he was expelled from drama school. Still living in Paris he became an actor with a travelling group, performing in the Paris suburbs and the provinces. He met actress Valentine Delafosse Compagnon, who became his companion until her death. He gave up acting because of an infection of his vocal chords in 1887, moved to the provinces and took up painting without success. His first photographs, of Amiens and Beauvais, date from 1888. 1890 Atget moved back to Paris and became a professional photographer, supplying documents for artists: studies for painters, architects and stage-designers. Starting 1898 institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris bought his photographs. The latter commissioned him ca. 1906 to systematically photograph old buildings in Paris. 1899 he moved to Montparnasse. While being a photographer Atget still also called himself an actor, giving lectures and readings. During World War I Eugène Atget temporarily stored his archives in his basement for safekeeping and almost completely gave up photography. Valentine's son Léon was killed at the front. 1920-1921 he sold thousands of his negatives to institutions. Financially independent he took up photographing the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux and produced a series of photographs of prostitutes. Berenice Abbott visited Atget in 1925, bought some of his photographs, and tried to interest other artists in his work. 1926 Valentine died and Man Ray published several of Atget's photographs in la Révolution surréaliste. Abbott took Atget's portrait in 1927. Eugène Atget died 4 August 1927 in Paris.Source: Wikipedia Eugène Atget (1857–1927) turned to photography in his late 40s, building a body of work that described the city of Paris and its environs. In its simplicity and clarity of vision, this project, resulting in over 10,000 photographs, became a modern urban portrait that has influenced many photographers since. Inspired to make a portrait of Paris at the moment when historic Paris was becoming Haussman’s modern Paris, Atget captured the changing city with eloquence and sensitivity. Atget received little recognition before his death in 1927, but due to the posthumous efforts of photographer Berenice Abbott, his work was preserved, promoted, and gained its rightful place in history. A significant number of his prints, including many negatives, are held by the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., along with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.Source: Fraenkel Gallery Photos © Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
Helmut Newton
Germany/Australia
1920 | † 2004
Helmut Newton, a German-Jewish/Australian fashion photographer, is best known for his fashion and female nude studies. Born Helmut Neustadter in Berlin, Germany on Oct. 31, 1920, Newton attended both German and American schools. Newton's proclivity for the unusual, particularly in sexual contexts, is attributed to his early years, when his older brother showed him the "red light" (prostitute) district of Berlin. This early exposure would later lead him to create photographic studies that altered the course of fashion photography. In 1936, Newton left a floundering school career to apprentice under German photographer Else Neulander Simon (known professionally as Yva). Under political pressure, Else, also a Jew, was forced to close her studio, and in 1938, Newton himself fled Germany for Singapore. Here he worked briefly as a photographer for the Singapore Strait Times until he made another move, this time to Melbourne, Australia. During World War II Newton served with the Australian army as a truck driver, then decided to follow his dream, opening his first photography studio in 1946. Two years later he married actress June Browne and gained his Australian citizenship. Newton's initial photography work was standard of the time, primarily comprising weddings, baby portraits and mail order catalogs. But in 1952 his big break came when he began working for fashion-iconic Australian Vogue magazine. In 1956 Newton partnered with Henry Talbot and gave his studio a new name: Helmut Newton and Henry Talbot. By the late 1950s, Newton's reputation as a photographer was growing. He left for London on assignment in 1959 and eventually landed in Paris in 1961. From this new locale, his work appeared nationally and internationally in such magazines as Elle, Marie Claire, Playboy and French Vogue. During this time Newton's photography style began to emerge as covertly sexual, even hinting occasionally at the fetishistic. Throughout the 1960s Newton's celebrity status brought him increasingly exotic assignments. Then, following a heart attack in 1971, Newton's work took on new purpose. He began to openly explore sexual themes, rocking the photography world and capturing interest around the globe. Newton's wife, June, is said to have encouraged him in this new career course as he began to depict women in increasingly aggressive and sometimes menacing roles. The 1978 horror classic "The Eyes of Laura Mars" was influenced directly by Newton's work. Newton was the recipient of a number of honors, including Germany's Kodak Award for Photographic Books, the Tokyo Art Director's Club prize and an American Institute of Graphic Arts award. He was also recognized by the French and German governments. Life magazine honored Newton with the Life Legend Award for Lifetime Achievement in Magazine Photography in 1999. In 2003, Newton donated a large photo collection to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, the land of his birth. The collection remains there today. Newton continued to travel during his waning years, primarily alternating between Los Angeles and Monte Carlo. He died on Jan. 24, 2004, in an automobile accident. His ashes are buried in his home city of Berlin.
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