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David "Chim" Seymour/Magnum Images

‘Chim, Legendary Photojournalist’

“David “Chim” Seymour was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1911 as Dawid Szymin, the son of publishers of Hebrew and Yiddish books,” writes Carole Naggar. “A few years after he fled to Mexico, then relocated to New York , his parents and friends were killed in the Holocaust. It is impossible to separate this history from Chim’s development as a deeply empathetic photographer, attuned to the plight of displaced people, refugees, children, and all those at risk during armed conflicts. In a retrospective now at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, which includes 150 photographs from before and after World War II, one can see how sincerely Chim believed that photography, by influencing public opinion, could help change the world.

The show opens with a large portrait of Chim by his Magnum colleague Elliott Erwitt, complete with his humorous glance, tilted eyebrows above round glasses, dapper suit, silk tie, and cigarette dangling from his fingers. In 1947, Chim cofounded Magnum Photos with Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Rodger. For French magazines, he abbreviated his family name “Szymin” to “Chim”—shorter and easier to pronounce and, perhaps, in order to distance himself from his Jewish past.

Thematic, broadly chronological sections at the Jewish Historical Museum group the various stages in Chim’s development. His career took off when he was sent as a special correspondent to the Spanish Civil War by the left-wing magazine Regards, and he spent the next three years traveling all over Spain.

Although he did cover the front lines, Chim was not a typical war correspondent: he was mostly interested in reporting on the life and fate of ordinary citizens during the first war in modern history in which civilians were systematically targeted by aerial bombing, culminating in the annihilation of Guernica. In one expressive chiaroscuro photograph, the only light in the frame seems to emanate from a group of huddled children, crowded in an underground shelter as Nazi planes were bombing the island of Menorca. The deep shadows make us squint as if we were there with them.”

For more information, visit jck.nl.

Category: Exhibition
Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1,
Amsterdam, Netherlands