"I never thought I would become a photographer" - René Burri

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Spending endless hours at the library, flicking through various photography books had me stumble across a photographer by the name of René Burri.

René Burri was a Swiss photographer, born 9th April 1933 in Zürich, Switzerland and died at the age of 81, 20th October 2014 in Zürich, Switzerland. Burri studied at the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) from 1949-1953 where he worked under Hans Finsler, Alfred Willimann and Johannes Itten.

From 1953-1955 he began working as a documentary filmmaker while completing military service. At the end of this time, Burri began working with Magnum Photos (1955) through Werner Bischof, finally becoming a full member in 1959, also being elected Chair of Magnum France in 1982.

The initial body of work that got Burri international coverage was on deaf-mute children, Touch of Music for the Deaf, published in Life magazine.








Rene Burri

SWITZERLAND. Zurich. 1955. Special school for deaf-mute children that teaches them to hear through their vibratory senses. Music education.

Image Reference PAR86997 (BUR1955003W00069/05)

© Rene Burri/Magnum Photos





Rene Burri

SWITZERLAND. Zurich. 1955. Special school for deaf-mute children that teaches them to hear through their vibratory senses. Music education. Children try to hear with their fingertips the lively rhythm played on the piano.

Image Reference PAR132972 (BUR1955003W00069/15C)

© Rene Burri/Magnum Photos



What fascinated me most about Burris work was his capability to not only capture emotion on the subject's face, but also to capture the entire atmosphere. When I look at a photograph by Burri, I can really feel the sense of emotion coming through the image and for me, that is what I think photography is all about; being able to capture a moment and display it to others without them literally being in the moment.

The series 'Touch of Music for the Deaf' has some beautiful examples of this, the expression of the child's face in 'Children try to hear with their fingertips the lively rhythm played on the piano', easily emits every emotion that he is experiencing.

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