René Burri, Photographer of Picasso and Che Guevara, Dead at 81

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Updated Oct. 20, 2014. 3.30 EST.

Magnum photographer René Burri has died aged 81. Burri — who began working with Magnum as an associate in 1955 before becoming a full member in 1959 — is best known for his portraits of Che Guevara, Picasso and Le Corbusier.

“Not only was he one of the great post war photographers, he was also one of the most generous people I have had the privilege to meet,” Martin Parr, President of Magnum Photos said in a statement. “[His] contribution to Magnum and his unrivalled ability to tell stories and entertain us over this time will be part of his enormous legacy. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family.”

“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,” Burri’s family added in a separate statement.

Born in Zurich in 1933, he was a contributor to publications such as LIFE, The New York Times and Paris-Match, and traveled frequently throughout his career, filing dispatches from the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. In 1965, he helped create Magnum Films and afterward spent six months in China where he made the BBC-produced film The Two Faces of China.

In 1962, he opened the Magnum Gallery in Paris and produced drawings and collages, while continuing to work as a photographer.

“A photograph is a moment,” Burri said in a 2010 interview with The Guardian “when you press the button, it will never come back.”

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox

Havana. Ministry of Industry. Ernesto GUEVARA (Che), Argentinian politician, Minister of industry (1961-1965) during an exclusive interview in his office.
Che Guevarra, Cuba, 1963.René Burri—Magnum
BRAZIL. Sao Paulo. 1960.
Sao Paulo, 1960.René Burri—Magnum
SWITZERLAND. Zurich. 20 November 1946. British Prime Minister, Winston CHURCHILL on his visit to University where he delivered his historic speech "Europe arise !" (in French: "Europe lËve-toi !").First picture taken by RenÈ Burri, at age 13.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Zurich, Nov. 20, 1946.René Burri—Magnum
SOUTH KOREA. 1961. Tae Song Dong. Women entertaining GIs.
Women entertaining GIs, village of Yon Sul Gol, South Korea, 1961.René Burri—Magnum
FRANCE. Paris. 16th arrondissement. 24, rue Nungesser-et-Coli. Le CORBUSIER at his apartment built by him. 1959.
Le Corbusier at his apartment, Paris, 1959.René Burri—Magnum
"Banquet des chevaliers du Tastevin" - local wine producers belonging to the brotherhood gathered to organise their yearly aunction. All proceeds go to the well-known hÙtel-Dieu hospice of Beaune.
Local wine producers gathered at an auction. René Burri—Magnum Photos
FRANCE. Provence Alpes CÙte d'Azur. Alpes Maritimes. Cannes. 1957. Villa "La Californie", Spanish painter Pablo PICASSO.
Pablo Picasso, Cannes. 1957.René Burri—Magnum
CHINA. Beijing. 1964. Former Summer Palace. Dead lotus flowers on the Kunming Lake.
Dead lotus flowers on Kunming Lake at the former Summer Palace, Beijing. 1964. René Burri—Magnum

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