Chim-The Photographs of David Seymour
1911-Chim  1933-Paris  1936-Spain  1947-Germany  1948-UNESCO  1950-Italy  1952-Portraits  1954-Greece  1956-Israel
ICP CHIM Home Credits

1950 - Italy



Photograher unknown.
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour


Chim and Robert Capa discussing Magnum business. Paris, 1950. Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson
1996 Henri Cartier-Bresson


The people of Cocullo capture snakes for a festival in honor of a Benedictine monk named San Domenico, believed to be a protector against snakebites. Cocullo, Italy 1951
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour


Venice, 1950
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour


Funeral procession for a child. In Italy, a child's hearse is traditionally white. Matera, southern Lucania, 1948
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour


Procession to commemorate Good Friday. Sicily, 1955
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour


The people of Cocullo capture snakes for a festival in honor of a Benedictine monk named San Domenico, believed to be a protector against snakebites. Cocullo, Italy 1951
1996 from the Estate of David Seymour

Chim's residence in Italy during the fifties marked a period of normalization of life in Europe. After the restraints of fascism, a new spirit of rebirth was embraced. Chim shared it in a uniquely personal way, by a revived interest in the institutions of religion, which in Italy meant the Roman Catholic Church. In the course of photographing for the book on the Vatican, Chim had seen the Catholic Church's pomp and power, and the unswerving belief of people from all over the world who came to worship in Rome. Chim was not religious, but he believed in any embellishment that might make life more positive and fulfilling. With his sense of history, he was fascinated by the grass roots aspects of faith. From 1951 on, he returned again and again to his self-assigned projects, which he hoped to turn into a book of stories on ancient religious rites and festivals persisting in remote parts of Italy.

All of Chim's religious stories depict the celebrants' strong belief in miracles and cures. Pagan rites are integrated into Catholic rituals, along with live, impassioned street theater. There are processions in which the splendid costumes are historically authentic; sometimes bible stories are reenacted.

He became an intimate of the famed writer Carlo Levi, who had recently become famous for his book Christ Stopped at Eboli. From him, Chim learned about the south of Italy, about its extreme poverty and the campaign being waged there against an illiteracy rate of seventy percent. Chim proceeded to a remote village in Calabria, Rogiano Gravina, and photographed old and young students learning to read and write.

Meanwhile, Magnum was prospering and growing. By 1950 the founders had invited two more stockholders: the brilliant young Austrian, Ernst Haas, and the aesthetic Werner Bischof, already famous in his native Switzerland. From the first, the founders had agreed among themselves that to support itself, Magnum would need to grow, and they were all enthusiastic about nurturing new, young talent. Magnum now developed group projects, which gave established photographers some financial support in their travels, and younger ones an opportunity to get published.

Inge Morath, who came to Magnum as Ernst Haas's researcher in 1949, and later became a photographer, writes of that time:

    Chim. Chimou, Chim-Chim. We all, especially Henri called him by tender names. He was of a sweet nature, never pushy, but of determining calming influence when Henri's temper flared. Capa said, "Cool it," and Chim stood firmly by his side... when he arrived with the pictures of the children for the UNICEF story. They left a deep impression. I still see them in front of my eyes: The little Greek girl holding up a pair of shoes, the girl in front of a blackboard. That was the spirit in which we wanted to work, show the world how to make things better by showing them what happened, moving them to help.

- Inge Bondi

1996, Inge Bondi
from CHIM: The Photographs of David Seymour, Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company

1911-Chim  1933-Paris  1936-Spain  1947-Germany  1948-UNESCO  1950-Italy  1952-Portraits  1954-Greece  1956-Israel
ICP CHIM Home Credits