||CHIM: A web biography of David Seymour|| |
Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1932
|Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908- ), renowned photographer, was a close personal friend as well as professional associate of David Seymour. A shy, intense Frenchman, he had been a painter before distinquishing himself as a photojournalist. As a founding member of Magnum, Cartier-Bresson photographed major events throughout the world. In his book, The Decisive Moment, he wrote, "A velvet hand, a hawk's eye-these we should all have...If the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless." (The Decisive Moment, Simon & Schuster 1952)|
He believes that there is a specific moment in each of life's episodes in which all the elements come into alignment resulting in a geometric pattern that reveals all there is to tell about a single episode. Whether this geometry was durable or fleeting, Cartier-Bresson feels that it is the duty of a documentary photographer to be a passive but omniscient observer, prepared to capture his subject at the precise moment.
He saluted Chim's memory on the tenth anniversary of his death:
Chim, like Robert Capa, was a Parisian from Montparnasse. He had the intelligence of a chess player; with the air of a math teacher he applied his vast curiosity and culture to a great number of subjects."
We had been friends since 1933. The precision of his critical spirit had rapidly become indispensable to those around him. Photography to him was a pawn that he moved all over the chessboard of his intelligence.
Another of his pawns, kept in reserve, was his culinary delicacy, which he handled with gentle authority by always ordering the good wines and elaborate dishes himself. He had one element of personal elegance: his black silk ties. His perspicacity, his very delicacy often gave him a sad, even disabused smile, which brightened if one humored him. He gave and demanded much human warmth. He had so many friends everywhere; he was a born godfather.
When I went to announce his death to his friend David Schoenbrun, he said to me in the conversation that followed: "You and I know each other very little. And yet Chim was a friend to both of us. He was a man of secret compartments and he forgot to make them communicate."
He accepted the servitudes of his profession and turned out to be brave in situations that seemed utterly foreign to his personality.
Chim picked up his camera the way a doctor takes his stethoscope out of his bag, applying his diagnosis to the condition of the heart; his own was vulnerable.
During the 1990s, Henri Cartier-Bresson has spoken out passionately about Chim, calling him "a genius" and celebrating Chim's art.