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The Family of Man

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Hailed as the most successful exhibition of photography ever assembled, The Family of Man opened at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in January 1955. This book, the permanent embodiment of Edward Steichen's monumental exhibition, reproduces all of the 503 images that Steichen described as "a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world. Photographs mad ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 2nd 2002 by Museum of Modern Art (first published 1955)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,065)
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Mar 05, 2016 Thomas rated it liked it
A well-intentioned and groundbreaking photo exhibition, memorialized in book form. I appreciate the theme of common humanity in The Family of Man, and a lot of work must have gone into choosing its photos. However, Edward Steichen's emphasis on the United States/the western world felt off-putting and unrepresentative of all of humanity. He also could have picked pictures more illustrative of the full gamut of human emotions. So many of these shots only highlight happy times, but humans undergo m ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 22, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: art
This was in the family library for as long as I can remember, being an object of interest to me since before learning to read. Continuously in print since 1955, I have given away innumerable copies of it over the years.

Carl Sandburg, Steichen's brother-in-law and author of its prologue, was a friend of the family, his wife maintaining a goat farm down the beach from my Dad's mother's place on Lake Michigan. Dad's father, Einar Senior, was a colleague of Sandburg's both in the Socialist Party of
Stephanie Fysh
Dec 28, 2012 Stephanie Fysh rated it liked it
Shelves: photography-art
Interesting as a historical document -- an important moment in photography -- but frustrating in and of itself. The overrepresentation of the United States compared with the rest of the world, the triteness (perhaps it wasn't trite then?) of the theme and the selection of quotations, the disconcerting inconsistency in place names (why do we sometimes get a city in the United States, other times just USA? and almost never a city outside the US, just country names, or "Arctic"?), the used of a mix ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Jordan rated it liked it
The religiosity was unnecessary, and even a tad corny in context.

However, I did enjoy the groupings of photographs from all over the world around different themes of the human condition: love, lust, birth, death, war, atomic bombs (the book has a definite era). I think that decision helps to break down barriers between groups, and to showcase the commonalities. The civil rights section was especially powerful. And sadly still relevant, today.

Buy this title from Powell's Books.
Amy Paget
Jun 13, 2015 Amy Paget rated it it was amazing
The recent death of noted photographer, Wayne Miller, prompted me to explore his work. I was pointed to a landmark exhibit, (, and its resulting book, The Family of Man. While long out of print (though available here, The Family of Man subtitled “The greatest photographic exhibition of all time – 503 pictures from 68 countries “in book form contains a lyrical prologue by Carl Sandburg and was curated and introduce ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A classic collection of black and white photographs from around the world--accompanied by quotes from famous people--moving pictures from the Great Depression.
Published by MOMA I had this in my home growing up and still have it to pass on. This is a keeper. Prologue was witten by Carl Sandburg--book created by Edward Steichen. This book if food for thought.
Very important in HS when designing the year book.
Matthew Trevino
Jul 10, 2014 Matthew Trevino rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised to find this at a local resale bookstore for only $1, and even more surprised at how much I enjoyed the images. This collection is great and, I think, can stand without historical context. However, historical context really adds to how much one can appreciate it.

I can only imagine what it was like to attend the exhibit and see this global community displayed in a grand fashion.
Sep 23, 2013 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today I learned that the world was in black and white in 1955. I know, I know: old joke. The real discovery for me in this groundbreaking photography exhibition, intended to represent humanity in all its mundane normality and splendor, is that it includes at least one work by Diane and Allan Arbus. I knew that husband and wife were New York fashion photographers; I didn't know of their art photography. (Allan Arbus, you may recall, portrayed Sidney Friedman, the humanistic military psychiatrist, ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Well-steered rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fine-art, photography
Alas, it was impossible to go to the exhibit in Clervaux, Luxembourg when I visited there last week due to the scarcity of public transportation on Sundays. So this was a poor substitute.
Candelaria Silva
A classic book that shows the power of photography, more than any other media, to show the family of man. We are brothers and sisters of this planet.
May 12, 2013 Joje rated it it was amazing
This album is part of what I consider my cultural identity, although it joins many others. I met it when young still and have related to all of its photos through the decades since I first met it. It must have been an amazing exhibit, too, but I only know the book and one of the photographers. My own paper copy got cut up for various projects but the images are internalized as is its spirit.
I am not going to give a finished date here, but it met it in the early 70s and ''finished" it the first
Jan 15, 2016 Pam rated it it was amazing
Exceptional photography. Captures the genuine emotion and life of people.
Jan 07, 2015 Gail rated it it was amazing
I have loved this book for years. The photos still make an impact on me.
Jul 01, 2015 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only takes an hour to see these amazing images. Totally worth it.
Nov 11, 2007 Jil rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in the 1950s idea of commonality
Shelves: school
There were some truly stunning and lovely pictures in this book - the only reason it didn't snatch the coveted 5 stars was that I'd read all sorts of critical essays discussing how its idea of the commonality of man is one of a distinctly American man (and a 1950s American at that!)

Some of the layouts distressed me a little, too, and of course fifty years later a lot of the themes in the book seem entirely tired, but all this criticism doesn't change the fact that this show WAS just gorgeous and
Apr 22, 2014 Astri rated it really liked it
i love the way he express through his pictures.
Aug 30, 2010 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Leslie by: My sister
The common theme of life is reinforced. By reading this book and looking at the photographs it is clear that, despite wide cultural divides, man has one common human theme. We all need love, shelter, food, etc. I gave this book as a gift and neglected to buy one for myslef. The hard back edition is now out of print. I would like to pick up another copy for a coffee table book. I alternate the books on my coffee table for both myself and for visitors. This is a great one to share.
Nov 26, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This is really a picture book, so I feel funny saying I read it, but someone mentioned it and I took out my old copy and I was really glad I did. It's photographs of people all around the world, working and laughing and dancing and playing and grieving - everything people do everywhere. There's a few quotes interspersed within, but it's mostly pages and pages of photographs of people. Fun!
Oct 26, 2008 Tracy rated it it was amazing
This is not a literary book, it is a collection of photographs from around the world taken by people depicting their views on themselves or people and lives around them. Though there are few words to read, this book speaks volumes when you see a photo of a person's face and their emotion that fills the page, that is what tells the story, and you will find the beauty that is man...
David Timms
Oct 01, 2008 David Timms rated it it was amazing
I remember my parents getting this book in the middle 50s. It influenced me enormously and made me want to capture important events on film.

It is the first book of photos I remember buying, and I own hundreds of them. Yes, it is dated. But it shows a glimpse of a time that has gone by - and shows it without makeup or artifice. And it is a beautiful thing to my eyes.
Ray Dunsmore
Jun 26, 2013 Ray Dunsmore rated it really liked it
The Family of Man is an excellent distillation of what portrait photography (and to some extent, all photography) is about. It's about the basic story of human life, we're born, we live, we work, we fall in love, we laugh, we sing, we struggle up until the end in our own way. It's a powerful message, and it couldn't have been told better.
May 17, 2009 Alice rated it it was amazing
We were given this photo essay book as a wedding gift from one of my dad's closest friends. The photos take you from birth to death depicting everything in between; play, dance, work, love, meals, etc. Photographers from around the world submitted their images so it is a collection of scenes showing what connects humans rather than what separates.
May 25, 2008 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
This was our coffee table book when I was a kid. I always enjoyed looking at it, although when I look through it now I notice many of the photos are not very sharp - maybe it's just the edition I have (or my eyes going with age).

It makes a nice gift for people who enjoy but aren't really into photography.
Apr 01, 2010 Laurel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-hs, own, art, read-2010
Such a mighty undertaking and a powerful message for the time. Certainly outdated in some points, but moving nonetheless. I wish I had a color version. Sandburg's prologue seems a bit bombastic and not very informational, but if I read something else he wrote, maybe I'd get it.
Jun 24, 2015 Chelsea rated it it was amazing
This coffee table photo book is full of inspiring photos of people around the world, portraying emotions that all humans feel. I love flipping through it, and I am particularly inspired by the photos depicting children. A great book.
Jobiska (Cindy)
Jul 26, 2011 Jobiska (Cindy) rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most influential books of my life, both upon how I feel about humankind and about how I feel about photography (its importance, its beauty, and its power to tell a story, inspire, even heal).
Feb 21, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Incredibly broad stereotypes and generalizations about every culture possible, and a terribly curated exhibition. BUT, an important read art historically. I just found my copy at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store!
Chris Gager
Nov 30, 2011 Chris Gager rated it it was amazing
This book was in my family for many years and I finally gave it to my nephew. Of course I was fascinated by the one picture of a man and a woman having sexual intercourse(presumably). Date read is approximate.
May 12, 2008 Sundry rated it liked it
Shelves: photography
Very interesting collection of photographs from early 1950s. An ambitious project at the time. Some of the photos are way to small to really appreciate.

I would have liked to have seen the exhibition.
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Edward Jean Steichen (March 27, 1879 – March 25, 1973) was a Luxembourgish American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator.
Steichen was the most frequently featured photographer in Alfred Stieglitz' groundbreaking magazine Camera Work during its run from 1903 to 1917. Together Stieglitz and Steichen opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, which eventually became know
More about Edward Steichen...

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