Rene Burri: The Imaginary Pyramids • Rene Burri • Magnum Photos

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Rene Burri Next to the age-old symbols of Egypt, the Pyramids and the camel, the Ramses car has made its appearance on the modern Egyptian scene. Ramses car. Egypt. 1962. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos

A new exhibition at Les Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, curated by Clotilde Burri-Blanc and Sam Stourdzé, seeks to contextualize and draw attention to Rene Burri’s consistent use of pyramid motifs in his photographic work.

On his first trip to Egypt in 1958, René Burri discovered the pyramid of Saqqara. Burri grew up among the alpine mountains of Switzerland, so he was instinctively drawn to these prodigious ancient constructions from the hand of man. He saw them as mountains in the desert, but without the snow.

Rene Burri Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Funeral of President Anwar El Sadat. Cairo. Egypt. 1981. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos
Rene Burri The Buddhist priest Soen Ozeki. Daitokuji Temple, Kyoto. 1961. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos

Over the course of his lengthy career, he will travel to Mexico, Guatemala, and Egypt several times to satiate his curiosity. He photographs pyramids in black and white, and in color. Even when in distant corners of the world, his photographs are still full of references to the triangular shape of the pyramids: roofs of houses, tipi of Indians, modern architecture, Zen gardens and fancy geometry. Rene saw pyramids everywhere. He covered his sketchbooks and even collected pyramid-shaped objects.

Rene Burri Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 1958. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos
Rene Burri The Towers of Satellite City (1957) by Luis Barragan (and Mathias Goeritz). Queretaro Highway, Mexico City. Mexico. 1969. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos
Rene Burri The pool of the Luxor Hotel. © Rene Burri | Magnum Photos