with the support from the Polish Cultural Institute
We Went Back: Photographs From Europe 1933 - 1956
Friday, January 18, 2013 - Sunday, May 5, 2013
International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
General Audience: $14
Students and Seniors: $10
ICP Members and Children under 12: Free
Voluntary Contribution Fridays 5-8 pm
We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 is the first in-depth survey of one of the most respected photojournalists of twentieth-century Europe, David "Chim" Seymour, a Polish-born photographer and a co-founder of the legendary Magnum Photos agency.
Born Dawid Szymin in 1911 to an affluent Hebrew and Yiddish publishing family in Warsaw, Chim started his career by chance in 1930s when he was studying chemistry and physics at the Sorbonne in Paris. A family friend David Rappaport lent him a camera - and thus, a life-long passion was born. The lack of professional training turned out to be no obstacle to the young enthusiast: he soon began not only taking quality photos, but also publishing his work in Paris-Soir. Shortly after, he was appointed staff photographer for the French leftist weekly Regards. It was this publication that sent him to cover the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Unlike freelance photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, who reported from the front lines, Chim concentrated on documenting life behind the battle lines. In May 1939 Chim boarded the S. S. Sinaia, a Loyalist Spanish refugee boat headed to Mexico, escaping France, which was becoming increasingly dangerous for Jewish foreigners. His photographs from the journey were published by Life and Paris-Match. Chim joined his friends, Capa and Taro in New York when World War II broke out. In 1940 he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in Europe as a photo interpreter during the war and was naturalized in 1942, taking on a new name, David Seymour. In 1947 for This Week magazine's story entitled "We Went Back," Chim photographed many of the most famous sites of World War II: Omaha Beach, Reims, and the concentration camps of Dachau. This assignment relaunched his photojournalistic career. That same year in Paris together with Capa, William Vandivert, George Rodger and Henri Cartier-Bresson, he founded the Magnum Photos cooperative. After Capa's death in 1954, he became president of the agency and held this post until November 10, 1956, when he was killed by Egyptian machine-gun fire, on assignment covering the armistice of the 1956 Suez War.
Chim's intellectual acumen and emotional intelligence made him one of the most respected photographers of his day. He was an astute observer of twentieth-century European history, particularly of the struggle for worker's rights, countries in transition, and postwar resistance and survival - but it was his tender treatment of people, children in particular, that set him apart. In 1948 on assignment for UNESCO, he documented the impact of war on children across Europe, traveling through Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, and Poland. These photographs became the core of his famous "Chim's Children" portfolio.
The exhibition We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 is a survey of Chims life and career as a politically immersed photojournalist, following his activity from his beginning years in Paris to his last days in Egypt. Organized by ICP Curator Cynthia Young, the retrospective features over 150 vintage prints, mainly black and white and never before seen color prints, publications, contact sheets, and personal objects. All of the material in the show is from the collections of ICP and Chims nephew Ben Shneiderman, niece Helen Sarid, and extended family.
We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 by Chim is 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.
More about Chim (David Seymour)