The Family of Man

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Migrant Mother (1936), Dorothea Lange

The Family of Man was a photography exhibition curated by Edward Steichen first shown in 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

According to Steichen, the exhibition represented the "culmination of his career." The exhibition contained 503 photos from 68 countries which represented 273 photographers (163 Americans[1]) were selected from almost 2 million pictures submitted by famous and unknown photographers.[2] These photos offer a striking snapshots of the human experience which lingers on birth, love, and joy, but also touches war, privation, illness, and death. Steichen's intention was to prove, visually, the universality of human experience and photography's role in its documentation.

The exhibit was turned into a book of the same name, containing an introduction by Carl Sandburg, Steichen's brother-in-law. The book was reproduced in a variety of formats (most popularly a pocket-sized volume) in the 1950s, and reprinted in large format for its 40th anniversary. It has sold more than 4 million copies.

After its initial showing at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955, the exhibition toured the world for eight years, making stops in thirty-seven countries on six continents. More than 9 million people viewed the exhibit. The only surviving edition was presented to Luxembourg, the country of Steichen's birth, and is on permanent display in Clervaux (50°03′15″N 6°01′49″E / 50.054246°N 6.03025°E / 50.054246; 6.03025Coordinates: 50°03′15″N 6°01′49″E / 50.054246°N 6.03025°E / 50.054246; 6.03025). In 2003 the Family of Man photographic collection was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in recognition of its historical value.[3]

"The Family of Man" as U.S. Cultural Diplomacy[edit]

The photographs included in the exhibition focus on the commonalities that bind people and cultures around the world and the exhibition itself served as an expression of humanism in the decade following World War II.[4]

The Family of Man circulated internationally under the auspices of the The Museum of Modern Art International Program, founded in 1952 to develop and tour circulating exhibitions, including United States Representations at international exhibitions and festivals, one-person shows, and group exhibitions. Since the founding of the International Program, MoMA exhibitions have had hundreds of showings around the world.[4]

The collection's overtones of peace and human brotherhood symbolized a lifting of the overhanging danger of an atomic war for Soviet citizens.[5] This meaning seemed to be grasped especially by Russians students and intellectuals.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jay, Bill (1989) "The Family of Man A Reappraisal of 'The Greatest Exhibition of All Time'. Insight, Bristol Workshops in Photography, Rhode Island, Number 1, 1989.
  2. ^ Luxembourg Tourist Office
  3. ^ "Family of Man". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  4. ^ a b "Edward Steichen at The Family of Man, 1955". MoMA. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b White, Ralph K. (Winter 1959). "Reactions to Our Moscow Exhibit: Voting Machines and Comment Books". The Public Opinion Quarterly. 4 23: 461–470. 
  • Steichen, Edward (2003) [1955]. The Family of Man. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 0-87070-341-2
  • Sandeen, Eric J. Picturing An Exhibition: The Family of Man and 1950s America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

External links[edit]