Time Frame: A life behind the lens

  • Rennie Burri / Magnum
  • Rennie Burri / Magnum

April 30, 2013

Happy Birthday René Burri. The Swiss-born photographer turns 80 this month, with the anniversary marked by the publication of a new book of his largely unknown colour images.

Burri is best known for his iconic black and white portraits, most famously the painter Pablo Piccaso and the revolutionary warrior Che Guevara.

The book René Burri: Impossible Reminiscences records his work in colour, much of it commissioned by magazines such as Life. It was one of those assignments that brought Burri to the Middle East in 1975, on a trip that included the United Arab Emirates, then less than five years old.

His colour images of Dubai and Abu Dhabi captured all aspects of life in the fledgling nation, from Sheikh Zayed in his majlis to the oil industry on Das Island (where he found a group of Japanese men playing golf) and the cities and roads emerging from the sands.

This is one of them, a gathering of local people at an unrecorded event, the image dominated by the fins of an ageing 1964 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. “I have led a double life as a photographer,” Burri explained in a recent interview. “One in black and white and one in colour.”

* James Langton

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation’s past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.a