Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pictures Worth Countless Words

Dawid Szymin, better known by his nickname Chim (or by his Americanized name David Seymour), was born in Warsaw on November 20, 1911. His father, Benjamin, was a publisher of many of the great Yiddish and Hebrew writers of the time. The family-owned bookstore was the center of cosmopolitan Warsaw. But, in the end, Chim chose images over words.

In 1932, Chim enrolled in the Sorbonne in Paris. Although he was studying physics and chemistry, he began to dabble in photography. With only 2 years of experience, he was appointed staff photographer for a left-wing weekly known as “Regards.” 

Chim took his camera to the center of the action - most notably capturing images of the Spanish Civil War.  In 1939, after photographing Spanish loyalist refugees fleeing to Mexico, Chim also went to Mexico. He stayed only briefly, however, and then headed to the United States. 

In 1942, however, he was drafted into the U.S. army (his naturalization happened while in the service) into military intelligence. For three years, Chim served in photo reconnaissance and interpretation under his Americanized name as he feared that his family might suffer. Sadly, he found out after the war that his parents had been murdered by the Nazis.

Returning to New York, Chim became one of the co-founders of Magnum Photos, an international photography cooperative. Magnum, which still exists today, became one of the premier photojournalist outlets. 

Chim moved to Rome in 1950. Although his assigned Magnum territory was Europe, he spent a great deal of time in Israel, and took many photos of the burgeoning state. About Israel he wrote to his sister: “It was like coming home again. It was like picking up the living threads of my life for which I had been searching in vain on the heaps of rubble and ash in the ruins of Warsaw.”

On November 10, 1956, while covering the conflict over the Suez Canal, Chim was killed by an Egyptian sniper. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

No comments: