4 Lessons David “Chim” Seymour Has Taught Me About Photography

David “Chim” Seymour was one of the co-founders of Magnum (alongside Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa/Cornell Capa), and unfortunately his life was cut short when covering a photography story in Egypt.

1. Shoot with your heart

“Chim picked up his camera the way a doctor takes his stethoscope out of his bag, applying his diagnosis to the condition of the heart.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’ve been on an old school Magnum photographer binge lately, gaining immense amounts of inspiration from the “OG” (original) Magnum photographers/founders. Their profession was truly rooted in life: to uncover the beautiful, the injust, with eloquence, grace and visual poetry.

With Chim (his nickname), he did that well. He shot truly with his heart, and you can see the emotions in his photos, especially when photographing the children after the war; many of them living in orphanages or squalor conditions.


2. Just click the shutter

“All you need is a little bit of luck and enough muscle to click the shutter.” – David “Chim” Seymour

Chim studied painting, and picked up photography as a way to make a living. But honestly, most of his photos are so powerful because of the content: the emotional subject-matter he photographed.

The great thing about photography is that anybody can be a great photographer and make great photos. 99% of the battle is just showing up, and having the strength, fortitude, and agility to click the shutter.

Lesson: Let’s put ourselves into more situations which will allow us to shoot more, and to shoot more emotionally powerful subject matter!


3. Photograph at the intersection of ordinary and extraordinary

Apparently Chim tried to photograph at the intersection of “iconic and commonplace” as well as to show the viewer “unexpected familiarity”, which means:

Make iconic photos of common, everyday people or scenes.

And,

Make extraordinary and foreign photos feel more familiar.

Lesson: You don’t want your photos to be too weird, too exotic, or too foreign to the extent that people cannot relate with it. Make photos that your viewers can relate to, and therefore it will move their hearts more!


4. Move your viewers!

“We are only trying to tell a story. Let the 17th century painters worry about the effects. We’ve got to tell it now, let the news in, show the hungry face, show the broken land, anything so that those who are comfortable can be moved a little.” – David Chim Seymour

Make photos that tell a story, in order to make those people who are too comfortable a little uncomfortable! If photos don’t emotionally move our viewer, what use do the photos have?

Some of my favorite photos from Chim:


Scroll to Top