Chim, Picasso in front of his painting Guernica, Paris, 1937. photo: © Chim (David Seymour)/ Magnum Photos
New York City's International Center of Photography (ICP) hosts a survey of photographs by Chim, the Polish-born photojournalist whose images of wartime and post-war Europe are among the most iconic of the age.
Chim became renowned across the world for his intellectual, emotional photographic approach, as he took into account harsh realities of 20th-century history and documented its most fervent struggles: labour uprisings, regime change, post-war resistance and the impact of war on children across Europe.
Born Dawid Szymin in 1911, Chim came from an affluent Jewish family in Warsaw. His career as a photographer began in Paris in the 1930s, when he studied chemistry and physics at the Sorbonne. A family friend loaned him a camera, and he began taking pictures that caught the attention of editors at Paris-Soir. He was named staff photographer for the leftist weekly Regards, and traveled on assignment in 1936 to Spain during its civil war, documenting life beyond the battlefields.
When the situation at home in Warsaw grew threatening for people of Jewish heritage, Chim left by boat for Mexico, documenting his journey in a series that was published by Life and Paris-Match. He later moved to New York City, enlisting in the U.S. Army and serving in Europe while continuing to document the reality around him. He became a U.S. citizen in 1942, taking the name David Seymour. A career highlight came in 1947 with his photo story for the publication This Week titled We Went Back, documenting famous sites of the Second World War. The same year, Chim founded Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, William Vandivert, George Rodger and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He became president of the international photo cooperative in 1954, then was killed on assignment in 1956 while covering the armistice of the Suez War.
We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 is a retrospective survey of Chim's life and career as a politically engaged photojournalist, following his activity from early years in Paris to his final days in Egypt. Organized by ICP curator Cynthia Young, the exhibition features over 150 vintage prints, mainly black and whites, along with color prints that have never been shown, and publications, contact sheets and personal objects. The material in the show is from the collections of ICP and of Chim's nephew Ben Shneiderman, his niece Helen Sarid and extended family. The exhibition has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bernard Lee Schwartz Foundation, Inc., by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and with the support of the Polish Cultural Institute New York.
We Went Back runs from the 18th of January 2013 - 5th of May 2013 at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY). For more information, see: www.icp.org
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: International Center of Photography, Polish Cultural Institute in New York
Chim, Children playing on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, 1947. © Chim (David Seymour)/ Magnum Photos (cropped)