Today part 2/5 on the founders of the Magnum photographic agency, David Seymour. I know nothing of this man, other that he was a photojournalist and he was supposed to be famous for his emotive imagery of children.


David ‘Chim’ Seymour was born as Dawid Szymin on the 20th of November 1911 in Warsaw to Polish Jewish parents. After finishing high school, he studies art and photography at the Leipzig Academy of Graphic Arts. After his studies, he moved to Paris and began working as a freelance journalist in 1933. There, he assumed the pseudonym “Chim”, by which he was known to most of his friends and colleagues.

Chim’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War, Czechoslovakia and other European events established his reputation. He was particularly known for his poignant treatment of people, especially children. In 1939 he documented the journey of Loyalist Spanish refugees to Mexico and was in New York when World War II broke out. In 1940 he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in Europe as a photo interpreter during the war. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1942, the same year that his parents were killed by the Nazis. After the war, he returned to Europe to document the plight of refugee children for the recently formed UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund).

In 1947, Chim co-founded the Magnum Photos photography cooperative, together with Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert and George Rodger, whom he had befriended in 1930s Paris. Chim’s reputation for his compelling photos of war orphans was complemented by his later work in photographing Hollywood celebrities such as Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas, Ingrid Bergman and Joan Collins.

After Capa’s death in 1954, Chim became president of Magnum Photos. He held the post until November 10, 1956, when he was killed by Egyptian machine-gun fire, while covering the armistice of the 1956 Suez War.

“‘All you need,’ he once said as a noted photographer orated on the psychology behind one of his pictures, ‘is a little bit of luck and enough muscle to click the shutter.’ He might have added: a good eye, a heart and a knowing nose for news. For all of these were obvious in his work.” (Judith Friedberg on David Seymour in “Photographic”)

(all images copyright Magnum Photos)



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