Eileen Shneiderman – Notes for speech at ICP in 1981, at the 25th anniversary of CHIM’s death
Notes for speech at ICP in 1981, at the 25th anniversary of Chim’s death
By Eileen Shneiderman, transcribed by Ben Shneiderman (12/2008)
It was 25 years ago that I was awakened in the morning by the shattering
news about the death of two photographers covering the Anglo-French
Suez Campaign of November 1956. One of them was my brother.
After the loss of my parents, the parents of my husband, our many relatives
and innumerable friends in the gas chambers of German-Occupied
Poland – this was the next great shock of my life.
Since then the sad responsibility in helping preserve his work was with me
all these years. In this I found full support in Magnum of which Chim was
one of the founders and its president, after Robert Capa’s death in 1954.
Cornell Capa was the one among many devoted friends of Chim in the
Magnum family that took most to heart the task of keeping alive the
memory of Chim by preserving his work.
With Cornell, we shared the same misfortune – we both lost our only
brothers who fell, two years apart, on photographic assignments in
dangerous, war-stricken areas of the world, one in Indochina, the other in
Suez. They were close friends and colleagues since the beginning of their
careers in the early thirties.
After Chim’s death our both families established the Capa-Chim
Foundation that sponsored a bi-annual Photography Contest in Israel.
Both of them covered extensively the first turbulent years of the reborn
State of Israel. Some of today’s outstanding Israeli photographers were
encouraged by the Capa-Chim Prize. This modest endeavor was
followed by the expanded Fund for Concerned Photography created as a
memorial to Robert Capa, David Seymour-Chim, and Werner Bischof.
Out of this grew the International Center of Photography, of which I am
proud be one of the founders.
I am pleased that the opening exhibit in the new Gallery of Permanent
Collections is devoted to Chim. He is one of the group of photographers
of the thirties who by the intensity of expression and professional skill
elevated photo-journalism to a form or art that is today accepted into
museums. The devotion to this tradition of humanistic, socially concerned,
photography was the basis on which the ICP was created and in a short
seven years developed, thanks to our magician-director Cornell Capa,
into one of the major cultural institutions in New York.
As we can see from the many exhibits in ICP, this tradition is still very
much alive among young photographers, along with other trends in
Chim died 10 days short of his 45th birthday. In his last card to me from
Nicosia, before embarking for Suez, on the fateful assignment he wrote:
“See you soon, on my birthday…”
His work as a photo-journalist spanning over two decades, was
interrupted by World War Two, when he served in the American Army in
photo-intelligence. He was a quiet, gentle man with an inclination for
intellectual pursuits in music and art, literature and science. But his times
were full of social upheavals and wars, and as a photo-journalist he
recorded the tragic events of our century, the sufferings they caused to
men, women and the most innocent – the children. This record was well
reflected in the posthumous exhibit Chim’s Times prepared by Cornell
Capa and showed in New York, all over Europe and in Israel.
The newly created Archives Department of ICP has a considerable
collection of Chim’s photographs, given tender care by our gifted, efficient
curator of Permanent Collections, Miles Barth.
I want to thank Cornell, Miles and the staff of ICP for marking the 25th
anniversary of Chim’s death with this modest exhibit and gathering of
family and friends. I want to thank Henry Margolis……
I could not end without stressing the full support given me by my husband
(of close to five decades); by our son Ben and daughter-in-law Nancy of
Washington; and our daughter Helen Sarid and her husband Haim of Tel
Aviv. Helen and Ben vividly remember their uncle David when as children
they waited for his annual visit to New York. He arrived loaded with toys
and sat with them on the floor playing games. They cherish his memory
and are proud of the heritage he left them.
I want also to mention my nephew, David Schneiderman, named after
Chim and the other name-sake of Chim, David Erwitt, the son of Elliot
Erwitt, a close friend of Chim.