David Seymour

Premature baby's morning toilet through the portholes of the incubator, Paris, France
WHO/David Seymour

David Seymour (or Chim) was born David Szymin in Warsaw, Poland in 1911. He studied graphic arts in Leipzig, Germany before moving to Paris in 1931. He discovered photography while studying at the Sorbonne and worked as a freelance photographer in Europe until the outbreak of World War II. In 1939, Mr Seymour emigrated to the United States. He joined the US Army and worked as a reconnaissance photographer in Europe. After the war, he stayed in Paris where he, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa founded the Magnum Photo agency in 1947.

Mr Seymour travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East after the war. His photographs documented armed conflicts, the emergence of the Israeli state, and the efforts of UNICEF to aid needy children in Europe. David Seymour was killed in 1956 while on assignment in Egypt with his colleague Jean Roy to photograph the Suez crisis.

The baby born too soon: France, 1950
In 1950, David Seymour was contracted by WHO to produce a photo story about premature babies in France. He followed the case of a Parisian mother and the care she and her child received at the Ecole de Puériculture in Paris. The story was published in the WHO Newsletter in 1953. The images were also used in a WHO film strip produced in conjunction with Unicorn Head Visual Aids entitled For Babies Born Too Soon and appeared in Life and Réalités magazines as well as in World Health and in a contemporary exhibit arranged by WHO.

"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; his own was vulnerable."
-- Henri Cartier-Bresson, extract from the text written for the tenth anniversary of David Seymour's death