Chim: David Seymour's Humanist Photography
National Gallery of Art, home page
Image: David Seymour (Chim), Truman Capote, 1953, gelatin silver print David Seymour (Chim)
Truman Capote, 1953
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ben Shneiderman
© David Seymour Estate/Magnum Photos


Truman Capote

Italy in the 1950s became an important center of movie making, and American magazines, such as Life and Look, increasingly devoted coverage to movie stars. Chim, low-key and personable, made celebrities and would-be celebrities feel comfortable. He quickly became the favored photographer of Ingrid Bergman, a former lover of Robert Capa's, whom he shot on many occasions. He did several widely published stories on a new star, Gina Lollobrigida, and soon he was asked to publicize other up-and-comers, including Joan Collins, Ava Gardner, and Audrey Hepburn.

In 1953 the magazine Picture Post commissioned Magnum Photos to document the shooting of "Beat the Devil." The movie had the makings of a blockbuster. Set on Italy's dramatic Amalfi coast, it was directed by John Huston, had a screenplay written by Truman Capote, and featured an all-star cast, including Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, and Robert Morley. In the end, however, it was a critical and financial flop.

Chim filled in on the assignment for Capa, whose passport had been temporarily confiscated by U.S. authorities after Capa had been accused of being a communist. This image shows Truman Capote and Robert Morley relaxing aboard a ship off the Italian coast.