David Burnett started his professional career with a TIME Magazine summer job while in college, in 1967. From there he went on to work for the Time & Life publications for some fifty years. Most of his work has been for weekly and monthly publications, including Time, Life, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Paris-Match, Stern, and GEO. His work has been honoured by World Press Photo (“Picture of the Year: 1980”), the National Press Photographers Assn. (“Magazine Photographer of the Year”) and the Overseas Press Club of America (“Robert Capa Gold Medal” and twice, the “Olivier Rebbot Award for Foreign Coverage.”)
A classic moment in sports: 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, runner Mary Decker, after being tripped up in the Women's 3000m Final ©2018 David Burnett/Contact Press Images
David has taught workshops at the Maine Photographic Workshops, the Santa Fe Workshops, Eyes in Progress Workshops, and the Continuing Education Dept. at Stanford University. While most of his work has been for magazines, he has also published several books:
a collection of photographs of Reggae icon Bob Marley (“Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley”), “44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World” – a collection of his work on the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and most recently “Homme Sans Gravité” – a collection of sports work from his years (1984-2018) of covering some 11 Olympic Games, both summer and winter.
David’s work has primarily been in 35mm (he was a pioneer in using Kodachrome film to cover breaking news events) in the 70s and 80s, and while he currently uses Sony digital cameras for most of his work, (the a9, a6500, and a7riii) he still loves shooting with his antique World War II era Speed Graphic film camera. His large format work over the last 15 years has helped fuel a resurgence in film photography, and in particular in the world of 4x5″ cameras. His re-discovery of the properties of the classic 7″ Aero Ektar lens (made by Eastman Kodak as a WWII recon lens for aerial cameras) has led to a very dedicated group of photographers who believe that using film remains valid.
During the Iranian Revolution, 1979 a moment behind the scenes with Ayatollah Khomeini. Photograph ©2018 David Burnett/Contact Press Images
After spending two years in Vietnam for Time & Life, he returned to the USA and joined GAMMA, the French photo agency, and in 1975, co-founded Contact Press Images in New York, one of the very few remaining independent press photo agencies.