I'm not the right person to write an appreciation of Magnum photographer René Burri, who died last Monday. He was just the sort of photographer I should like, and I always thought of him sympathetically, but in trying to engage with his work I never caught enough friction to make contact. I still don't quite get him, although I've always thought I should. Along with the rest of the world I admire his most famous pictures.
I heard of him as a younger gadfly of Henri Cartier-Bresson's, who measured himself against his older and more distinguished colleague, provoking and inspiring and perhaps sometimes irritating Henri, through a shared affection. And over the years I heard intriguing stories of how Burri refused to take certain pictures because they were too obvious or too exploitative—and how could I not like that? "One of these days I'm going to publish a book of all the pictures I did not take. It is going to be a huge hit," he said.
He is well served by in-print books—one a "how I worked" memoir called Impossible Reminiscences, another a major retrospective book of photographs. I haven't seen either one (have you? Tell us what you think if you have). There are numerous obituaries on the web. I'm sorry I don't have more to add, but I would welcome comments from others who do.
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