Portfolio: René Burri


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The Independent Culture

You might imagine René Burri sees the world in black and white. After all, over a period of 50 years as one of Magnum's top names, it is the Swiss photographer's monochrome shots that have been most disseminated, from his portraits of Picasso and Che Guevara to his globetrotting reportage.

Yet Burri has always led a double life, as celebrated in a new book of his colour work to mark his 80th birthday. Throughout his career, Burri travelled with two cameras, freely switching between black-and-white and colour photography; and in a post-war period when the latter was considered vulgar due to its associations with advertising, he unlocked its artistic potential.

Take this 1976 shot, of Mexico's San Cristobal stables, designed by the Modernist architect Luis Barragan. With block colours heightening the picture's geometric abstraction, and the human/horse figures appearing as strange anomalies, it has a formalist beauty to match anything in two shades.

'René Burri: Impossible Reminiscences' is published by Phaidon, priced £69.95. Burri will be speaking at The Photographers' Gallery, London W1 (tpg.org.uk) on 24 April