Famed Swiss photographer René Burri has died aged 81 after a long illness.

Photo: ©Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

Paying tribute, Magnum Photos president Martin Parr said: ‘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.

‘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 go out to his family.’

In a statement, René Burri’s family said: ‘He leaves behind an important body of work on recent history, which has been published in countless newspapers, journals, magazines and books all over the world…

‘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.’

Born in 1933, Burri studied at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich and started using a Leica during military service.

In 1955, he became an associate member of Magnum and won international attention for one of his first reportages, on deaf-mute children, which was published in Life magazine.

From 1953-1955, Burri worked as a documentary filmmaker, becoming a full member of Magnum in 1959.

Working for Swiss magazine Du, he photographed artists such as Picasso and Le Corbusier.

In 1963, while working in Cuba, Burri photographed Che Guevara during an interview with an American journalist – creating the famous image of the revolutionary smoking a cigar.

The photographer opened the Magnum Gallery in Paris in 1962.

More recently, Burri published a collection of his little-seen colour photographs.

René Burri died on 20 October.

AUTOPORTRAIT, Coronado, New Mexico, 1973/83.

SWITZERLAND. Zurich. 1980.

All photos: ©Rene Burri / Magnum Photos