“The Family of Man has been created in a passionate spirit of devoted love and faith in man.”
– Edward Steichen
I first fell in love with black and white photography when I was in my teens. As a budding photographer with a Kodak Instamatic camera, a friend gifted me the book, A Family Of Man, a book that changed my view of the world.
The collection of 503 images was originally from an exhibition Edward Steichen presented at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1955. 273 photographers from 68 countries captured the human experience around the themes of birth, love, joy, war, and death. The exhibition was meant to be a manifesto for peace and equality. Steichen described the exhibition as, “A mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.”
At the time I didn’t know any of this. All I knew was the photos of Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, and all the other photographers, reflected back to me my desire to be a humanist. I believed people everywhere wanted, and deserved, the same things in life; shelter, food, safety, health and love. The prose and poetry of Plato, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, to name a few, spoke of equality, diversity, nature, and love. I credit this book with introducing me to the power of photography to tell a story, my love of inspirational quotes and poetry, and my renewed faith in the inherent goodness of mankind.
This was in the early 1970’s, a time of racial unrest, the Vietnam War, and inequality for women, issues that are still relevant today. When I researched this book this morning I found out the Family Of Man exhibition is permanently installed at Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg, Edward Steichen’s home country. I’m going to go and see it.
It’s time to renew my belief in the inherent goodness of mankind.