Too much violence in contemporary photojournalism, says Magnum member
There is too much of an emphasis on documenting violence in contemporary press photography, and photojournalists should document other, non-violent stories in the world, according to Rene Burri.
Speaking at the opening of his photo exhibition ‘Un Mundo’ (a world) in Mexico City’s Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Swiss-born Burri told NewCorrespondent that he deplores the focus on violence in much of today’s press.
"What I deplore is this kind of focusing on violence and almost
pornographic views on what’s going on. There’s a big wide world out there which is fantastic to record. There’s still a lot of work to do."
Burri, who has photographed legends such as Che Guevara, Winston Churchill, Maria Callas, Pablo Picasso and Fidel Castro, advised budding photographers to stick their noses into places which weren’t drenched with blood.
"It’s said that I never took a picture of dead soldiers or people. I found in difficult moments that I couldn’t take pictures and was more interested socially and economically before and after. I made some pictures…some of them survived and they also sent a message about the horror and terrible things but I don’t think that every time we have to go and put our hands into blood and at the moment it’s almost unbearable.
"I think at the moment it’s almost unbearable – I think terrible things always happen in the world but I would encourage people to go and poke their nose into things whether in Iraq or in a village somewhere and do some humanistic stories that will in some of your children or future generations – give us some idea of what the world looked like, not only the miserable bombed up fascist things we’ve gone through."
Burri’s work – from Argentina to Zurich – is an awesome journey through some of the most important events in the world’s the last six decades. He started working for Magnum, one of the world’s most respected photojournalism agencies, very near the start of his career in the 1950s after impressing the agency’s founders with his pictures of deaf and mute children in a Zurich school. Since then he has filed for Life, The New York Times and The Sunday Times, to name just very few.
The exhibition at Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso features work of his from all over the world, and includes shots of Picasso, Guevara and Maria Callas.
Burri laughed at some of his missed opportunities over the years during the talk at the museum that accompanied the opening of the exhibition.
"There was one time when I was alone in New York on the Upper East Side," he says.
"I saw on the sidewalk there was a lady coming towards me. She wore dark glasses and I had my Leica in my hand. It was Greta Garbo, the film star. I was there with my camera and she deployed such energy and passed me with such a big smile – but I didn’t take the picture, missing my chance to become paparazzi."