David Seymour (CHIM), Photographer of the Spanish Civil War

The following is a guest post by Beverly Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints and Photographs Division.

Photographer David Seymour (CHIM), with three Leica cameras around his neck. Photographer unknown, ca. 1950. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppbd.00599

Photographer David Seymour (CHIM), with three Leica cameras around his neck. Photographer unknown, ca. 1950. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppbd.00599

When I read For Whom the Bell Tolls in my junior year of high school, it was just the most romantic thing I had ever come across, and I fell in love with the thought of fighting for one’s ideals. The Spanish Civil War seemed to epitomize just such a struggle. I was not alone in my idealism. When fighting broke out in 1936, individuals from all over the world rushed to Spain to fight variously for democracy, Fascism, or Communism.

The conflict in Spain also fascinated CHIM, the photographer whose legacy and 103rd birthday we observe on November 20 with a program in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building (Room 119, 3-4 pm).

Born David Szymin in Poland, he changed his surname to “Seymour” when he emigrated to France. For his pen name, he used CHIM, which is an abbreviation for the French pronunciation of his original surname.

CHIM worked in France as a photojournalist for Regards magazine from 1935 to 1936. From 1936 to 1939, he took many assignments in war-torn Spain. While fellow photographers Taro and Robert Capa focused on combat scenes, CHIM concentrated on the social and cultural aspects of the conflict. His photographs reveal the grim reality of war and represent some of the most iconic images of the conflict.

Soldier kisses his son goodbye, Spain. Photo by CHIM, 1936. © Estate of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.37988

Soldier kisses his son goodbye, Spain. Photo by CHIM, 1936. © Estate of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.37988

Spain Fighting 2: 5 soldiers aiming gun. Photo by CHIM, 1936. © Estate of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.38033

Spain Fighting 2: 5 soldiers aiming gun. Photo by CHIM, 1936. © Estate of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.38033

After the war, CHIM continued his work as a photojournalist covering international news events. Tragically, he was killed while covering the Suez crisis in 1956.

The Library is grateful for the gift of 112 photographs, including CHIM’s photographs from the Spanish Civil War and other stages of his career donated by his niece, Helen Sarid, and his nephew, Ben Shneiderman. The photographs are an important addition to the Library’s rich documentation of a conflict that attracted international participation and was a precursor to the ideological warfare among fascism, communism, and democracy that affected so many countries in World War II and later.

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