David Seymour

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For other people named David Seymour, see David Seymour (disambiguation).
David Seymour
David Seymour, taken by Elliott Erwitt.jpg
David Seymour (Chim), 1954. Copyright Elliott Erwitt

David Seymour (born Dawid Szymin;[1] November 20, 1911 – November 10, 1956), or Chim (pronounced shim, an abbreviation of the surname "Szymin"), was a Polish photographer and photojournalist known for his images from the Spanish Civil War, for co-founding Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and William Vandivert, and for his project "Children of War" with UNICEF that captured the plight of children in the aftermath of World War II. He became president of Magnum after Capa's death in 1954 and held this post until his own death in 1956 by Egyptian machine-gun fire in the aftermath of the Suez crisis.

Early life[edit]

Chim was born to Polish Jewish parents in Warsaw in 1911.[1] David had a sister, Eileen, who was three years older. Their parents were Regina and Benjamin Szymin, a respected publisher of Yiddish and Hebrew books.[2] In 1914 Chim and his parents emigrated to Odessa just as World War I had begun. In 1919 they returned to Warsaw. Chim studied graphic arts in Leipzig and then traveled to Paris, France to study at the Sorbonne.[3]


A Disturbed Child in a Warsaw Orphanage, 1948. Copyright David Seymour/Magnum Photos

It was while Chim was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris that he became interested in photography. Chim began working as a freelance journalist in 1933. His first "credited" published photograph appeared in 1934 in the magazine "Regards." Between 1936 and 1938 Chim covered the Spanish Civil War (alongside fellow colleague Robert Capa) and other international political events. In February 1935 Chim was sent to Spain by Regards to report on crucial issues there. Twenty five of his stories on Spain ended up being published in Regards.[2] In 1939 he covered the Loyalist Spanish war refugees on the S.S. Sinai to Mexico and then later in the year he arrived in the United States. Chim was in New York when World War II broke out in Europe when Hitler invaded Poland, Chim's birthplace.[2] In 1940 he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in Europe as a photo interpreter during the war. In 1942 he became a "naturalized" citizen of the United States, the same year that his parents were killed by the Nazis.[4] Chim photographed for Life, along with Look, Paris-Match and Regards. In 1948 he received a commission through UNICEF and traveled to Austria, Hungry, Italy, Poland and Germany to document the plight of World War II refugee children. Inge Bondi, Chim scholar, said: "Chim's heart had always gone out to children, and they reacted to him with complete acceptance. They seemed oblivious of him, but he noticed every little movement, every little pain, every little pleasure. There is no artifice, no bravura of lighting expertise in Chim's photographs of the children. They speak simply from his pictures, as if alive. This intellectual, so adept at analyzing the most complex political situations, so comfortable photographing heads of state, produced his greatest photographs to help children in need." [5] Between 1949 and 1955 Chim traveled extensively throughout Europe and Israel fulfilling assignments for major publications in Europe and the United States.[3]

Magnum Photos[edit]

In 1947, Chim co-founded the Magnum Photos photography cooperative, together with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom he had befriended in Paris in the 1930s. As Inge Bondi, Chim scholar, stated: "Photojournalism was about to enter a golden decade. Television was not yet available to broadcast world events, and editors and the public were eager for news, from which they had been cut off during the fascist years and war years."[5] After Capa's death in 1954, Chim became president of Magnum Photos. He held that post until his death on November 10, 1956.[3]


On November 10, 1956, Chim was killed while driving to photograph an exchange of wounded soldiers at El Quantara (along with French photographer Jean Roy) by Egyptian machine-gun fire four days after the armistice of the 1956 Suez War.[3]

Pablo Picasso in Front of Guernica, 1937. Copyright David Seymour/Magnum Photos

Photographic portraits[edit]

Chim's reputation for his photos of war orphans was magnified by his later work in photographing famous people of his time. These included:


  • David Seymour (CHIM): A Celebration of Chim, September 7-late October, 2013, Leica Gallery, Washington, DC
  • We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 by Chim, January 18-May 5, 2013, International Center of Photography, New York
  • Photographs by David "Chim" Seymour and Roman Vishniac, February 1–23, 2013, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
  • CHIM (David Seymour), February 7 – March 30, Galerie Walter Keller, Zurich
  • CHIM Rediscovered / CHIM retrouvé, December 22, 2012 - January 27, 2013, CLAIR Galerie, St. Paul de Vence, Nice, France
  • CHIM Retrospective, October 29 to February 27, 2011, the Jewish Museum in Brussels
  • Chim/Gamboa Exhibition: The Mexican Connection, December 9, 2010 - March 6, 2011, El Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City
  • The Mexican Suitcase,, September 24, 2010 - January 9, 2011, International Center of Photography, New York
  • Chim: The Photography of David Seymour (1911 - 1956), September 29, 2007 - February 24, 2008, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco
  • Photographs by David Seymour (Selections from George Eastman House) May 11 - September 9, 2007, International Center of Photography, New York
  • Reflections from the Heart, January 20, 2007 - Sunday, April 22, 2007, George Eastman House
  • "Reflections from the Heart" March - June 2006, The Corcoran Gallery of Art[6]
  • Reflections from the Heart, September 11 - December 10, 2006, Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery
  • "Close Enough", 1999, The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • CHIM: The Photos of David Seymour, 1996, International Center of Photography, New York

Public collections[edit]

  • Magnum Photos - New York, NY
  • The International Center of Photography - New York, NY
  • The George Eastman House - Rochester, NY
  • The National Gallery of Art - Washington, DC
  • The Corcoran Gallery of Art - Washington, DC
  • The de Young Museum - San Francisco, CA
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - London, UK
  • Harry Ransom Center - Austin, TX


  • David Seymour: Vies de Chim. Naggar, Carole. Contrejour, 2014.
  • Chim: Children of War. Naggar, Carole. Umbrage Editions, 2013.
  • David Seymour (Chim). Beck, Tom. London and New York, 2005.
  • David Seymour, Chim. Valencia, 2003.
  • Close Enough. Photographs by Chim (David Seymour). College Park, 1999.
  • Magnum. Fifty Years at the Front Line. Text by Russell Miller. New York, 1998.
  • Chim: The Photographs of David Seymour. Bondi, Inge. Boston, 1996.
  • Chim. The Photographs of David Seymour. Photographs by Chim (David Seymour). Bulfinch, Boston, 1996.
  • In Our Time. The World as Seen by Magnum Photographers. Text by William Manchester. Norton, New York, 1989.
  • Les Grandes Photos de la Guerre d'Espagne." Photographs by Robert Capa, David Seymour-Chim,' 1980.
  • Front Populaire, photographs by Robert Capa and David Seymour-Chim, Paris, France: Chene-Magnum, 1976.
  • David Seymour--"Chim." ICP Library of Photographers Editors: Cornell Capa and Bhupendra Karia, New York, NY USA: Grossman Publishers, 1974.
  • David Seymour Chim, 1911-1956. Photographs by David Seymour, 1974.
  • Israel/The Reality - People, Places, Events in Memorable Photographs, Edited by Cornell Capa, Micha Bar-am, Karl Katz & Arnold Saks, New York, NY USA: The World Publishing Company in association with the Jewish Museum, 1969.
  • The Concerned Photographer. Photographs by David Seymour, 1968.
  • David Seymour ("Chim") Paragraphic Editor: Anna Farova - Associate Editors: Cornell Capa & Sam Holmes, New York, NY USA: Grossman Publishers, 1966.
  • "Chim (David Seymour), 1911–1956." Paris: Michel Brient, 1966.
  • Little Ones. Photographs by David Seymour, 1957.
  • The Vatican. Photographs by David Seymour, 1950.
  • Children of Europe. Photographs by David Seymour, 1949.
  • Krieg in Spanien (War in Spain), by S.L. Shneiderman, Photos by Chim, Warsaw, Poland: Yiddish Universal Library, 1938.


  • The Mexican Suitcase. Dir. Trisha Ziff. 212BERLIN, 2011. Film.[7]
  • Chim's Children of Europe. 2013. 7 minute video.[8]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]