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The Family of Man

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,866 ratings  ·  73 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 January 1st 1955)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Jan 16, 2015 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
Sep 18, 2008 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 25, 2012 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Interesting as a historical document -- an important moment in photography -- but frustrating in and of itself.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
Alison Whiteman
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Museum of Modern Art in New York displayed a photographic exhibit in 1955. The exhibit was three years in the making with over two million submissions of photos. Author Edward Steichen, notes it was a daunting task to reduce the photos first to ten thousand, then 503 photos from 68 countries.

What I love about this book in addition to the amazing photos are the quotes from poets, The Bible, Anne Frank, etc. If one cannot afford to travel, there are always books. A book like this one takes yo
Jul 13, 2015 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.
Aug 30, 2010 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.
Matthew Trevino
Jul 03, 2014 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.
David Timms
Oct 01, 2008 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.
Jun 12, 2009 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.
Jobiska (Cindy)
Jul 26, 2011 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).
Very important in HS when designing the year book.
Stephen Kiernan
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It would be an understatement to call this a book of photographs.
First, because it began in 1955 as an art exhibit, which became the most popular photo show ever, with an extended stay in NYC and then appearances all over the world.
Second, because it is actually an essay, sometimes didactic but always engaging and often uplifting, on the human condition.
This book contains multitudes: joy and sorrow, birth and death, freedom and slavery. It is not possible to flip through these pages. They invi
Jo Young Switzer
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the year in the 1960s when I received this book for Christmas until now when I got a new copy to replace the one I got earlier, I'd found this book absolutely mesmerizing. The photographs capture pathos and joy and fear and beauty. The photograph of the worried woman during the Dust Bowl haunts me to this day. She shows the weight of love on her shoulders. If you want a book that captures the human spirit, this is it. It is a fitting gift for either sex and for all genders. It is a good boo ...more
Great little book from the 1955 MOMA Exhibition of the same name. Loved reading the written inserts with the photographs and seeing the dated black and white photographs of a time long ago. Things looked simpler then but probably hid a lot of misery and unhappiness, too.

One (1) star off because it was a bit too much Western perspective while bragging it was from 63 different countries. Could have used a lot more input from photographers and people from the rest of the world. Maybe it's time to
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a record of the January 1955 exhibit The Family of Man, this is clearly a work of its time. One would hope that a similar project, if endeavored today, would be less centered on the U.S. and its famous photographers of the day, with a more inclusive set of chosen quotations and a more measured representation of the inequities of our world. What it is, though, is a 65-year-old treasure of skillful, poignant, composed and spontaneous photographs all aiming to capture the emotions, experiences, ...more
Paul Baker
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely brilliant compilation of photographs Edward Steichen assembled for a MOMA exhibit that opened in January 1955, this selection runs the gamut of humanity. Childbirth, childhood, women, men, courtship and marriage, work and war, relaxation, music, dancing, almost every significant event of being human is presented with amazing photographs, 503 altogether, from 68 countries.

One can sit for hours glued to these pages, studying the beauty and ugliness of man. It is an inspiration for al
Andriy Kryvtsun
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding human race exploration at mid. 50th by Edward Steichen.

The book has strong narrative and conducts a reader through all human activities from birth till death. The Family of Man is filled with great humanism and I would send the book in a space ship to the aliens as Earth people presentation.
Ruth Lym
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book 100 stars, I would!! I have given this book several times as gifts to people I love (the first time I gave it as a gift was in 1963 to my favorite history teacher in high school, and I watched while he read it during a study class we had. And I saw the amazed smiles on his face as he went through it! It is a very, very fond memory). It is truly an absolutely amazing book taken in its totality. Not easy to describe, but SO worth reading and owning and re-reading!
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
THIS is the liberal universalism that I love so dearly. There are many reasonable criticisms that can be made of this work-- it's American-centric, it focuses only on general experiences and not deeply individual ones, etc., but I think there's a really important message here. It's really a message that needs preserving in an age of divisive identity politics and integral nationalism.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got hold of this beautiful first print copy from the library from 1955. Well read and recovered. The quality of the pages are extraordinary considering how they held up with time and many readers.
I consider this THE book on both life and photography. I can look at it everyday of my life and never tire of it.
What a brilliant exhibition it must have been!
Michael Haase
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was an extremely satisfying reprieve for me after all the time I've spent reading on violence and hate. I feel really refreshed and uplifted after reading through this.
Peter Beck
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: photography
What took me so long to discover this book??? Many of the best people pictures taken in the first half of the 20th century. I also love how global the scope of the exhibition was.
Linda Wolf
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the great photography books of all time
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Directed by Terrence Malick
Mukul Jaiswal
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
you'll get to see a lot of photographs and will be taken back into the time.
K. P.
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Humanity's family photo album
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is certainly fabulous.
Amy Paget
Jun 13, 2015 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
Aug 07, 2013 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
Oct 21, 2007 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
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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

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