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Maurice Seymour

Time Period: 
Chicago, New York

Maurice (1900-1993) and Seymour Zeldman (1902-1995), Russian expatriate photographers, formed the "Maurice Seymour" studio in 1929. Inspired by the example of Maurice Goldberg, the foremost photographer of classical dancers and concert musicians of the 1920s and regular contributor to the New York Times, the brothers chose to make a particular forte of ballet dancers. From 1929 to 1950 they plied their trade in a studio at the St. Clair Hotel in Chicago. In 1950 Seymour Zeldman moved to New York City; both men at this juncture legally changed their names to Maurice Seymour.

The New York brother expanded his clientele from dancers and actors to singers, jazz musicians, and burlesque stars in the 1950s. He for a period partnered with James Kriegsmann, successor to Herbert Mitchell, and a practitioner of in situ photography of singers and musicians in their performance venues. The Chicago Maurice Seymour continued specializing in dance and theatrical photography, although he had, for a period of time in the 1930s, a healthy business from radio personalities as well. Both shuttered their studios in the 1970s.

When in Chicago, they collaborated completely when creating images, sharing the posing and developing work. The images tended to be brightly illuminated, posed against neutral featureless backgrounds, and developed on glossy paper. The studio's skill at retouching was particularly well known. All of the Chicago portraits were taken with a large accordion portrait camera using 8x10 negatives. From 1935 onward, the brothers were the prefered portraitists of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1947 the studio published Seymour on Ballet, a set of photographic studies, with a foreward by Leonid Massine (Chicago: Pelligrini & Cudahy), and in 1952, an expanded portfolio, Ballet Portraits, featuring Margot Fonteyn (Chicago: Pelligrini & Cudahy).

NOTES: Obituary, Chicago Tribune (Oct 19, 1993). "Photographing Dancers," Dance Magazine (Mar 1950), 16-19, 35. The estate of Maurice Seymour (Maurice Zeldman) is managed by his son, the photographer Ron Seymour: David S. Shields/ALS