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 David Seymour (Chim)
French Croix de Bois Choir Members at a Papal Mass, 1949
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ben Shneiderman
© David Seymour Estate/Magnum Photos

Italy

French Croix de Bois Choir Members at a Papal Mass

Chim, though not a believer, had a deep interest in religion, religious institutions, and the fulfillment people found in passionate belief. This fascination increased after the war, and in 1949 Chim agreed to take photographs for a book that Ann Carnahan planned to write on the Vatican (The Vatican: Behind the Scenes in the Holy City, 1949).

The two worked together in Vatican City for ten weeks, from the time the gates opened in the morning until they were closed in the evening. Seymour took some 2,500 photographs, including a portrait of the pope made during a private audience. His friends started calling Seymour "Il Papavile" because he became so steeped in the pomp and ceremony of the Catholic Church.

In this image, Chim photographs the photographers. He captures the French choir members' excitement at being near the pope and slyly comments on photography's ubiquitous role in society.