The Family of Man

The Family of Man exhibition
by Edward Steichen, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955

[The Family of Man] exhibition … demonstrates that the art of photography is a dynamic process of giving form to ideas and of explaining man to man. It was conceived as a mirror of the universal elements and emotions in the everydayness of life – as a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.

We sought and selected photographs, made in all parts of the world, of the gamut of life from birth to death with emphasis on the daily relationships of man to himself, to his family, to the community and to the world we live in – subject matter ranging from babies to philosophers, from the kindergarten to the university, from primitive peoples to the Councils of the United Nations. Photographs of lovers and marriage and child-bearing, of the family unit with its joys, trials and tribulations, its deep-rooted devotions and its antagonisms. Photographs of the home in all its warmth and magnificence, its heartaches and exaltations. Photographs of the individual and the family unit in its reactions to the beginnings of life and continuing on through death and burial. Photographs concerned with man in relation to his environment, to the beauty and richness of the earth he has inherited and what he has done with this inheritance, the good and the great things, the stupid and the destructive things. Photographs concerned with the religious rather than religions. With basic human consciousness rather social consciousness. Photographs concerned with man’s dreams and aspirations and photographs of the flaming creative forces of love and truth and the corrosive evil inherent in the lie.

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