Chim: David Seymour's Humanist Photography
National Gallery of Art, home page
Image: David Seymour (Chim), French Croix de Bois Choir Members at a Papal Mass, 1949, gelatin silver print Chim's 1956 journalist pass from Italy's State Railways
© Chim Archive

Italy

From 1949, Chim started spending more time in Italy. Though he still traveled constantly and was frequently in Paris to attend to Magnum business, Rome became his de facto home base until his death.

Chim's friends recognized that while he was always generous and good-humored, he was also deeply sad—especially in the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust. As Henri Cartier-Bresson described it, Chim "carried the weight of the world on his shoulders."

Italy, however, offered Chim a welcome escape. He was drawn to the comforting continuity of Italy's age-old customs and traditions, particularly those related to Roman Catholicism, and to the renewed optimism of the 1950s, when Italy became a haven for celebrities. A famous gourmet and an impeccable dresser, Chim appreciated Rome's fine restaurants and skilled clothes makers. As John Morris, executive editor of Magnum Photos, later recalled, "Chim's greatest days were in Rome. He owned that town."