Maurice Seymour Pt. 3: The Plot Thickens

Quick recap: In Austin, Texas, I bought a strange and lovely old (1940s?) 8×10 glossy of an anonymous dancer. I Googled the photographer’s name (his credit was on the print) and discovered he was a very prolific, abundantly talented Chicago photographer, who shot not only local entertainers, but also world class celebrities like Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett, not to mention German synth rock pioneers Kraftwerk (!).

After posting here about the portrait and photographer, my friend David Kodeski sent me a message pointing out that Seymour’s son Ron Seymour is also a professional photographer, whose studio is less than a mile from my own. I had heard of Ron Seymour and walked by his studio many times, but I didn’t make the ‘Seymour’ connection when I got the print.

15 thoughts on “Maurice Seymour Pt. 3: The Plot Thickens

  1. The december 06 issue of Chicago Magazine has a little primer piece on local (i.e. Chicago) photographers of note. Concerning MS, it says “Maurice Seymour was actually two brothers: Maurice (1900-93) and Seymour (1902-95) Zeldman. Born in Russia, the pair came to Chicago in 1920, and nine years later opened their own studio-Maurice Seymour-atop the St. Clair Hotel. Bestowing a dramatically highlighted glamour on the city, they photographed film, theatre, and radio stars, judges and politicians, and the international luminaries of ballet, beginning, in 1934, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. When Seymour Zeldman moved to New York in the 1950s, both men legally changed their names to Maurice Seymour and continued to photograph into the 1970s.”

    The later work, especially from New York, tends to be more of down-market cabaret hopefuls and strippers, than arty ballerinas, though images nowadays seem to be harder to find on the web than they were a few years ago, compared with the ballet and TV/film promotional shots (google filtering, perhaps?).

    1. I am the wife of Serge Seymour, the oldest son of Maurice Seymour of Chicago. He lived this story and knows anything and everything about the brothers, who did what, and the split. Serge will be 79 in October and he is still shooting and producing beautiful images. I was am a photographer and painter and I was a Maurice Seymour fan BEFORE I met Serge in Texas. At that time I also did not know they were brothers. Interesting stories. Sandra Childs Seymour

  2. I am maurice seymours daughter, tatiana.My Uncle Maury, my father’s brother, was the retoucher and worked in the darkroom.MY FATHER, whom you seem to be confusing with his brother,took way more then caberet hopefuls, etc.If you want to call Ray Charles,Celeste Holm, among others,mere casual celebrities at the time, YOU ARE WRONG.My father, Seymour Zeldman was the eye behind the lens.He and My Uncle maury were as close as any two brothers could be.It was maury’s wife and my aunt , Sonia, who convinced my Uncle to change his name to Maurice SEYMOUR, which my father did first!She was jealous of the publicity my father gained while her husband worked just as hard in the darkroom retouching and wanted him to get the credit.That is how both brothers came to use the same name.They stayed close, despite the rift my Aunt could have caused.My father moved to NY, where the culture and ballet…the American ballet theatre for one, were readily available as were all the upcoming groups such as Diana Ross and the Supremes , among thousands of others.His ballet books and photograp[hy, paved the way for the future, and to this day, his books on ballet are entrusted and his photos and Publicity stills used.Oh, and by the way…He met my mother when her agent sent her for marquis shots when she landed the role of AnnieOakley” in Annie Get your Gun,on broadway…they were m,arried 47 yrs and my father remained close to his brother maury , whom we often visited in Hollywood ,FLorida where he and my aunt Sonya retired.Get your facts staright!sincerely, tatiana Seymour Roveda,Jackson, NJ

    1. Well this is interesting. I see there is a lot that you are not aware of in the mystery of the Maurice Seymour Story. Let me first say, and correct you, that Maurice (your uncle) was NOT THE RETOUCHER, exactly as you state it here. Actually, both brothers were both excellent photographers, and retouchers and both worked in the darkroom. They shared the work load and were extremely compatible. Maurice was the quiter type and Seymour handled the publicity. Yes, Sonia was very disturbed as her husband was not ALWAYS the one people knew about and she felt he enjoyed taking credit for it all while her husband did not care. The two brothers were very close, but Maurice was more of a family man at that point in time and was not so available to carry on the publicity but that was ok with him anyway. My husband of 40 years now has shared his stories throughout our relationship and I knew Maurice and Sonia very well and know their stories. My husband is Serge Seymour, and his brother is Ron Seymour. My husband Serge opened Maurice Seymour in Puerto Rico in the 70’s and continued with his own style of show business images and to this day he is a working artist, selling his work. Serge was very close to his uncle Seymour and to Belle and may have met your mother as he remembers her. Sorry we never had the chance to meet you. Anyway, after Maurice and Seymour parted they both did quite well up until retirement. Actually, Maurice keep out even more and became more well known after Seymour went to New York as you can imagine. So there are many images they worked on together and so close that it would surely be a mistake for one of them to take credit for any image prior to their split. I have lived with their work and known them so long and studied photography and am a photographer myself. I can see the difference in their styles after they split but many of the same characteristis (and collectors should know these things as it is much more interesting). In my opinion and my husband Serge Seymour’s, who actually lived it and knows, they were two extremely talented men who worked extremely close with their ideas and with producing an image (also as a printer Maurice was one outstanding black and white photo printer another thing any collector should know.) As for retouching, well they were so very good, and so were three other retouch artists who worked their. A lost art form, truly an art form. The tools available through computors offer ways of doing things now, but these guys truly knew how to work some magic in the darkroom. There will never be anything else like that. I just want to share what I know of this interesting story. From what I have seen here I think Maurice is not getting proper credit. At the same time, let me say clearly that being in the darkroom and being the retoucher is a huge part of WHY the images are wonderful. As I say, I think they both were talented in all these areas, which means every aspect of producing a memorable image. I am happy to know they stayed so close and loved each other through any problems. I think I have many many negatives and images you have never seen as you must have Seymour’s work. I went to visit him in New York at Kregsman’s, but he did not come in that day and I could not wait. So anything prior to their split could actually have been photographed by either of them or both of them and they were both involved as was necessary. Anything after the split will be signed Maurice Seymour Chicago and Seymours say Maurice Seymour N.Y. Please get in touch and maybe we can trade stories. I loved the work of Maurice Seymour even before I met Serge and joined his family. Serge was close to Danny and to Rosie at times in their short lives. Sandra Childs Seymour

  3. Also, something a collector of the brothers work should know is that Maurice in Chicago NEVER shot with another camera other than the huge one in his studio that he shot mostly 8 x 10 negatives with and the same camera the brothers had used together. Once Seymour went to New York he began shooting with a Rolliflex. This is an entirely different approach requiring a different lighting, and it is a different negative, so, the image would be something all together different and especially to a photographer and one who may have shot with one of those big Deardorrf cameras and who would know the Rolliflex. Retouching was also handled differently and printed by someone other than him. I beleive the name was Kreagsman or something like that. I only met the son once in New York. That studio in New York did composites and black and white publicity photos in large number orders. His style (the Seymour Brother’s style) continues, though there are differences as I mentioned above. He was as great as ever in New York but with a different approach. Also, Serge worked for Maurice for quite a few years and shot the same type of images for a while and then began doing his own thing eventually but always everything from that studio carried the Maurice Seymour of Chicago studio. As we look at the images that come up through Google alone, many of those were shot by Serge Seymour. Of course, it does not bother him one bit. It is always the studio name and not always does everyone get credit, though the studio will. In summary Maurice and Seymour were both talented in every aspect of producing the image and worked as a team. Both Maurice’s sons Ron and Serge grew up in this atmosphere and both are active photographers to this day. Both their work reflects a bit of the old Maurice and Seymour look at times, but like the brothers before them, they both have gone their own way and their work is different. Sandra Childs Seymour

    1. You are absolutely and 100% wrong. James Kriegsman had his own business and it was not a mass production photography studio the way you are trying to portray it.

  4. I have a black and white print of a trumpet player profile view which looks like a young lou costello. It has a signature in the bottom right that says MAURICE and under it Chicago. I am trying to find out who it is a photo of. I do not believe this is a Maurice Seymour. It just says Maurice.

  5. Hello,
    I am enthralled to see such a large artistic interest in my adoptive father’s work.
    “The later work, especially from New York, tends to be more of down-market cabaret hopefuls and strippers, than arty ballerinas,” Seymour/NYC was the MAIN if not the only photographer for the “Arty Ballerinas”…
    My adoptive sister Tatiana is correct & those “IN” the business back then, knew it also as: Seymour Zeldman/NYC was the eye behind the lens, His brother the retoucher. SZ/NYC was not the publicist, fame came to him & his brother! My adoptive father’s character & energy was mesmerizing. It takes two to tango….This is written with respect & admiration.
    ” At the same time, let me say clearly that being in the darkroom and being the retoucher is a huge part of WHY the images are wonderful” Agreed….
    “Once Seymour went to New York he began shooting with a rolleiflex, ” I personally saw my father photograph & ONLY with a “DEARDORFF”, correct spelling is with 2 f’s. This is from mid 70’s to 79’/80′. Even in his first sons’s book, “The Loud Song” published in 70′ (Danny seymour/Famed Film maker & Photographer) there is a drawing of Maurice Seymour/NYC using a Deardorff. I never even saw him use a “Rolleiflex”, never even saw one on his desk, I would of known because i would of picked it up an played with it …..LOLOL. Retouching was probably done by someone else, “to my knowledge”. I only personally saw my father shoot & then the darkroom. He was smart, he knew where his talents lay & focused on what he did masterfully..Photography! His ballet books speak for themselves!!

    1. Thank you Raoul..Yes, it seems the interest has turned into quite a dispute, which I will be glad you help you clarify in any way..I truly appreciate your knowledge and sincerity about our Dad- Perhaps sadly this will never truly be resolved, as some people still fight to argue the fact of “who was more talented’..which to me is a great sadness. Brothers who loved and respected each other so.. were probably the first one’s who would be saying- Stop THIS . sincerely, Tatiana Seymour Roveda

  6. At Sandra Childs Seymour- AS I said.. I AM the true daughter of Maurice Seymour. You are only using the name thru marriage, and you truly are incorrect, and its sad how jealousy has clouded every one’s judgement..MY father, was true and one amazing father. I had the privelege of watching him work..I know the legendary “eye behind the lens” will always be his. I didn’t live his stories, I was part of them. I met these incredible people – many of whom spent weekends at our home in the country..Rita Moreno and her husband Lenny..Daniel and Rosie are my half brother and sister..I remember all the times we shared with them..and Danny’s friends. And I know the truth about the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo- IT was MY father who took the pictures that night..NOT Uncle Maury. Raoul is absolutely correct when he says he spent hours in the studio, and every weekend we would lunch with isabella and/ or Rosie. Despite the debate, and your criticism of my father’s attitude.. sadly, you are a Seymour by marriage, not birth.And so, I see a struggle to “undo” the work of a great artiste’- My father. An innovator and master of light and form and imagery. Uncle Maury’s work was very elegant.. but it was NOT the passion, the driven mastery of photography that my father’s was. Including the signature font- whether it says Chicago, or New York.. IT is and was my life. So Ms. Childs- I respectfully ask you stop speaking ill of my father, his attitude, etc. You have no idea what type of man he was..especially in a time when immigrants, like our family heritage, came here penniless and forged their lives from nothing. And suffered the pain of loosing both his first born son and sadly his daughter as well. Respect would be appreciated instead of “stories”, of who you knew. Thank You.

  7. Does anyone know if Danny went to prep school, my dad said he looks familiar. We found his photo on another website.

  8. Hello,

    Danny Seymour (famed Photographer & son of Maurice Seymour-N.Y.) did go to prep school/boarding school.

    Daniel was my uncle. Maurice Seymour was my beloved adoptive Father.

    Raoul G. Van Kirk

    F.Y.I I have photos of Maurice Seymour/NY using his “DEARDORFF”!

    1. I knew Danny and Rosie as little children when they lived on Woodlawn, in Hyde Park on Chicagos south side in the late 40s. I was a friend of half sister Sydney Seymour. I remember coming up a long stairway to an entrance hall

      where there was alife sized portait of a ballerina.The background
      was black with the ballerina on point in a ruffled tutu. The spotlight was on her and an astounding sight for a 12 year old girl to behold
      Soon after the Seymours divorced and Mrs Seymour married a man named Mc Cormick .
      I lost track of Sydney, a lovely bright girl who hungered for affection and connection with her father Seymour and his new family.

  9. I have 8X10 photo’s of my mother Winifred Saxon Broh and her younger sister Betty Elisabeth Broh of Chicago as a dance team. They called themselves ‘The Saxon Sisters’. My mother had just returned from several years in Europe(1934-1937/8, as a member of a Danish Dance Troop. She was a trained in ballet but was too short for the big time. The photo’s are marked Maurice Seymour Chicago.

  10. In going through old photos from my father-in-law we came across a Maurice Seymour photo of Shirley Dean taken by Maurice (or the studio). Paul Allen was a signer with the Frankie Carle Orchestra and the pictures were probably taken 1930-41.
    I’d happily post it but do not know how to add a photo.

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