Library to Commemorate Work of Photographer David Seymour
Nov. 20 Program Celebrates Acquisition of Seymour’s Spanish Civil War Photos
A Library of Congress program will observe the 103rd anniversary of the birth of David Seymour, whose pen name is CHIM, one of the best-known photojournalists of the 20th century, and will celebrate the donation of 112 of his photographs, primarily showing the Spanish Civil War.
The program will be held from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20 in Room LJ-119 on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Hosted by the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, the event is free and open to the public. No tickets are needed. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., a small display of Seymour’s work will be on view in the adjacent Room LJ-113.
The David Seymour (CHIM) Photograph Collection was donated to the Library in 2013 by Ben Shneiderman and his sister Helen Sarid, from the estate of Seymour, their uncle. Shneiderman will speak at the program, in addition to CHIM biographers Carole Naggar and Tom Beck. Beverly Brannan, curator of photography in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, and Juan Manuel Perez, bibliographer in the Library’s Hispanic Division, will discuss how the collection enhances the Library’s holdings.
“The Library of Congress welcomes this special collection, because we have long been the principal East-Coast repository for the study of the Spanish Civil War, through newspapers, maps, movies, manuscripts and books. But the Library collections did not include a strong representation of the best-known photographs, until now,” said Helena Zinkham, chief of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
The pen name CHIM (pronounced shim) is an abbreviation for the French pronunciation of Seymour’s Polish surname Szymin. CHIM was born to Polish-Jewish parents in Warsaw in 1911. CHIM became famous for his coverage of the Spanish Civil War and was one of the founding photojournalists of the Magnum Photos cooperative.
One hundred black-and-white photographs in the collection focus on CHIM’s early work. The first images were made in Paris in 1935, where CHIM developed innovative strategies to tell picture stories. Photos from 1937 to 1939 cover many aspects of the Spanish Civil War as it moved into World War II. The gift also includes a portfolio of 12 of CHIM’s photographs from the 1930s to 1955, which can be seen at davidseymour.com/photos/.
The Library of Congress digitized the photos in this collection. They can be seen at this site.
During the Spanish Civil War, CHIM and his fellow photojournalists Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, took news photography to new levels of importance. Photo critic and historian Susan Sontag once wrote, “The Spanish Civil War was the first war to be witnessed in the modern sense: by a corps of professional photographers at the lines of military engagement and in the towns under bombardment, whose work was immediately seen in newspapers and magazines in Spain and abroad.”
To extend the collection, a second gift will add approximately 85 more photographs and include CHIM’s post-World-War-II photographs that document the effects of war in Europe and North Africa, as well as portraits of celebrities he met through work with Hollywood filmmakers.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division has more than 15 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day. International in scope, these visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.
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