Bruno Barbey was born in Morocco and in 1959-1960 he studied photography and graphic arts at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Vevey, Switzerland. During the 1960s he was commissioned to photograph European and African countries by Editions Rencontre in Lausanne. In 1964 Barbey began a relationship with Magnum Photos, becoming an Associate member in 1966, and a full member in 1968, at which time he was photographing student riots in Paris. He eventually served as Magnum vice president for Europe in 1978 and 1979 and from 1992-1995 as President of Magnum International.
He spent 1979 to 1981 photographing Poland, resulting in his book “Poland”. He rejects the label of ‘war photographer’, although he has covered civil wars in Nigeria, Vietnam, the Middle East, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Kuwait and liberation war in Bangladesh. From 2005 Barbey has, among other work, been pursuing a project on Istanbul.