David Seymour

American, b. Poland 1911, d. Suez 1956

David Szymin was born in 1911 in Warsaw into a family of publishers that produced works in Yiddish and Hebrew. His family moved to Russia at the outbreak of the First World War, returning to Warsaw in 1919.

After studying printing in Leipzig and chemistry and physics at the Sorbonne in the 1930s, Szymin stayed on in Paris. David Rappaport, a family friend who owned the pioneering picture agency Rap, lent him a camera. One of Szymin's first stories, about night workers, was influenced by Brassaï's Paris de Nuit (1932). Szymin - or 'Chim' - began working as a freelance photographer. From 1934, his picture stories appeared regularly in Paris-Soir and Regards. Through Maria Eisner and the new Alliance agency, Chim met Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa.

From 1936 to 1938 Chim photographed the Spanish Civil War, and after it was over he went to Mexico on an assignment with a group of Spanish Republican émigrés. On the outbreak of the Second World War he moved to New York, where he adopted the name David Seymour. Both his parents were killed by the Nazis. Seymour served in the US Army (1942-45), winning a medal for his work in intelligence.

In 1947, along with Cartier-Bresson, Capa, George Rodger, and William Vandivert, he founded Magnum Photos. The following year he was commissioned by UNICEF to photograph Europe's children in need. He went on to photograph major stories across Europe, Hollywood stars on European locations, and the emergence of the State of Israel. After Robert Capa's death he became the new president of Magnum. He held this post until 10 November 1956, when, traveling near the Suez Canal to cover a prisoner exchange, he was killed by Egyptian machine-gun fire.


1931/33  Chemistry and Physics, Sorbonne, Paris
1931       Leipzig Akademie der Graphischen und Buch Kuenste


2005       David Seymour, Phaidon Press Ltd, UK
2003       David Seymour, Chim, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Spain
1996       Chim: The Photographs of David Seymour (text by Cornell Capa and Henri 
              Cartier-Bresson), Bulfinch Press, USA
1980       Robert Capa, David Seymour: les grandes photos de la guerre d'Espagne,
              Janninck, France
1976       Front Populaire (with Robert Capa), Le Chêne, France
1974       David Seymour Chim, 1911-1956, Editions Michel Brient, France; Grossman
              Publishers, USA
1966       David Seymour ('Chim'), Paragraphic Books, USA
1957       Little Ones, Heibonsha, Japan
1950       The Vatican, Behind the Scenes in the Holy City, Grosset & Dunlap, USA
1949       Children of Europe, UNESCO