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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppbd.00599

Photographer David Seymour (CHIM), with three Leica cameras around his neck. Photographer unknown, ca. 1950. //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, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.37988

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

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

Spain Fighting 2: 5 soldiers aiming gun. Photo by CHIM, 1936. © Estate of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, //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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3 Comments

  1. Paul Gottlieb
    November 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Barbara,
    There’s no reason for you to put these photos on line if you don’t make them large enough for people to actually see! What’s the point?

    If the family thought it worthy enough to donate the photos to a public institution, then maybe they should have considered allowing you to do what you do with other photos that you publish here. Not everyone lives in D.C.
    PG

  2. Barbara Orbach Natanson
    November 25, 2014 at 11:59 am

    The rights to the David Seymour photographs are protected by copyright (a rights statement giving more detail is available at: //www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/678_seym.html ). Although we recognize that it can be disappointing to have access only to a small thumbnail version of a photograph outside Library of Congress buildings, there can still be value in showing the images online. The thumbnail view can give people a sense of the content in case they are able to plan a visit to the Library of Congress to see the larger images or, better yet, to view the originals. We also provide a bibliography, so the pictures can lead to viewing possibilities elsewhere: //www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/david-seymour-photograph-collection.html#related. Our curators acquire gifts such as this not only to preserve and provide access to important images today, but also to help document historical events for future viewers of the Library of Congress collections who will have even more ready access when the copyright restrictions are no longer in effect.

  3. Natalie Fiocre
    November 29, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for remembering David Seymour who is often in Robert Capa’s shadow.
    Natalie Fiocre
    San Diego

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