David Burnett graduated from Colorado College in 1968 with a B.A. in political science. He then began working as a freelancer for Time and then Life, first in Washington, D.C. and Miami, and later in South Vietnam.
Two years after being in Vietnam, David Burnett joined the French photo agency Gamma, traveling the world for their news department for two years.
He co-founded Contact Press Images in New York in 1976. He has continued to travel quite a bit and covers news, features, people, landscapes, and scenics.