CHIM (DAVID SEYMOUR)
WHO IS CHIM?
David Seymour, who signed his reportages ‘Chim’, is one of the most celebrated photojournalists of the twentieth century. A cofounder of Magnum Photos, he covered conflicts, portrayed celebrities, and pioneered humanitarian photography while covering the plight of millions of children orphaned and abandoned after World War II. Based on archives, numerous interviews of friends and colleagues, and a comprehensive study of his contact sheets, Searching for the Light: David “Chim” Seymour, 1911-1956 is the first English-language in-depth illustrated biography to appear that explores his life from his childhood in Poland to his untimely death during the 1956 War in Sinai. His friend and colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson once wrote: “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.”
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In the last fifteen years I have dedicated much of my research to Chim, a photographer whose life has followed an extraordinary trajectory. From struggling student in Paris to legendary photographer, his partnership with Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Rodger led to the founding of Magnum Photos. The Warsaw-born, Jewish son of a prominent Yiddish and Hebrew publisher was supposed to follow into his father’s footsteps, but instead the vagaries of history pushed him other directions entirely, so that his life, emblematic of the displacements and passages of the XXth century, parallels the trajectory of other Eastern-European artists, many of them Jewish, who had to reinvent themselves in exile during the 1930s. One of the first human-rights photographer, Chim, in the tradition of Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis and the FSA photographers, practiced advocacy as a vehicle of social change. His photography, in particular his work on children for UNICEF, was groundbreaking, and it inaugurated a tradition of photographers working with human rights organizations.
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