||CHIM: A web biography of David Seymour|| |
Levi's portrayal of Chim
Copyright 1998 David Seymour Estate
|Photographer David Seymour ("Chim", pronounced "shim") was an extraordinarily talented and perceptive artist. He shares his unique vision through the many meticulously composed photographic portraits he has left behind. The son of a noted publisher of Hebrew and Yiddish books, Benjamin Szymin (pronounced "shimmin"), he was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 20, 1911 and had one sister. He attended Hebrew Ascola High School in Warsaw and furthered his education studying printing techniques, graphic arts and photography in Leipzig, Germany and finally chemistry at the Sorbonne in Paris. Chim's education, provided at his parents' expense, was intended to prepare him to join the family enterprise. When their resources were depleted by the economic depression, they suggested that Chim contact a family friend who operated a photographic agency in Paris. Fluent in several languages, his photographic career was initiated. He began working as a freelance photojournalist in 1933. In 1934, Chim produced a memorable set of photo essays for Regards, a weekly news magazine.|
Chim's camera was not so much an external, impersonal instrument as it was an extension of those individual qualities for which he was known and by which he is so fondly remembered by his contemporaries. Sensitive, gentle, imaginative, and industrious, he became a close friend of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson in the 1930's. They shared a fifth floor walkup 'studio' in Paris and developed films in the closet. Shortly after the Allied Victory, they, in collaboration with fellow photographer George Rodger would establish the first international cooperative photographic agency, Magnum. Their ranks swelled with the addition of Ernst Haas, Werner Bischof, Cornell Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Eve Arnold, Marcos Chamudes and others who worked under the agency's auspices. Chim succeeded Capa as President of Magnum.
Chim's boundless enthusiasm for life, his intellectual inquisitiveness, his sense of humor, and his fascination with young people are apparent in his photographic work. Chim worked primarily in Europe from 1947-1956 covering assignments for various European and American magazines, including "Life". On November 10, 1956 Chim was killed by Egyptian machine gunners while covering the Suez conflict; it was four days after the armistice.
Chim's sympathy for liberal ideals was forged by his exposure to numerous political revolutions in the economically and socially volatile Europe of the 1930's. His documentation of the Spanish Civil War established him as one of history's finest photo journalists. He covered the migration of Loyalist refugees to Mexico. His poignant pictures, especially those of children, evince a certain pathos and his subjects seem to transcend his medium of expression.
|Chim came to the United States in 1939 and was in New York at the advent of World War II. Germany's September invasion of Poland negated his plans to return to France. He was eventually joined in New York by his sister Eileen Shneiderman and her husband Samuel. David Seymour became a naturalized American citizen in 1942. He enlisted in the army in 1940, serving in Europe as a photo interpreter during World War II. Against the backdrop of Hitler's meteoric rise and the staggering socioeconomic debility of Europe, Chim developed a liberal philosophy which found expression in his sensitive documentation of war and its devastating effects on its victims. He travelled throughout Europe to document war-ravaged children for UNESCO. Chim felt deeply the tragic consequences of the war as his own parents and many relatives and friends died in Polish ghettos and extermination camps.|
Copyright 1998 David Seymour Estate
David Seymour was chiefly concerned with people and interpersonal relationships. He photographed a wide range of subjects -- children, famous personalities, soldiers, and many others, and he courageously overlooked any hazards involved with carrying out his work.
Inge Bondi writes that Chim had an extraordinary interest and grasp of European politics. He was fascinated by the political, social, and economical events that shaped people's lives, and their interpersonal relationships under those conditions. He was deeply interested in art, as reflected in the marvelous compositions of his photographs.