David “Chim” Seymour was a pioneering photographer and photojournalist who co-founded Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Rodger.
Born David Szymin in Warsaw, Poland in 1911, he became interested in photography while studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. The first published photo he was credited for appeared in the magazine Regards in 1934, and by 1936 he was covering the Spanish Civil War, alongside Robert Capa. Living in New York at the advent of World War II, he became a naturalized US citizen in 1942 – the same year his parents were killed by the Nazis – and adopted the name David Seymour.
In 1947 he co-founded Magnum Photos, bringing a business mind to the cooperative. Co-founder Cartier-Bresson said of Seymour: “People always credit Capa for Magnum’s success, but it is Chim that was instrumental to the beginnings of the agency; it is him who created the bylaws without which we could not have functioned.”
The following year, Seymour took a commission from the newly-formed UNICEF to photograph children affected by the war, three years after it ended. Accepting a much a smaller sum than his usual day rate, Seymour spent six months travelling through Europe, meeting refugee children separated from their families, orphaned survivors of the Nazi concentration camps and countless young people irreversibly scarred by the trauma of the conflict.
After this body of work took the form of a book, Children of Europe, which was published in 1949, Seymour began accepting portrait and reportage commissions from major international publications. Seymour shot portraits of some of the most iconic cultural figures of the 20th century, including Sophia Loren, Pablo Picasso and Richard Avedon. Seymour died in 1956, at the hands of Egyptian gunmen who attacked Seymour’s vehicle as he drove to photograph soldiers wounded during the Suez Crisis.
This photograph of Audrey Hepburn was taken in Paris in 1956, three years after her breakout starring role in Roman Holiday, for which she won the BAFTA for Best Actress. Seymour’s biographer, Carole Naggar, wrote of his portraiture work: “His unobtrusive manner and sense of humour, his ability to listen, helped in the creation of portraits that went beyond the usual ‘glamour shots’, conveying an air of relaxed intimacy.”