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The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age

Book cover image for
You are invited to the international book launch of

The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age 

With a panel discussion featuring
Gerd Hurm, Sarah Meister, Anke Reitz, and Shamoon Zamir, moderated by Shelley Rice
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm 
Titus 2
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, New York
RSVP before March 19 to

The Family of Man, a pioneering exhibition of photography designed by Edward Steichen that began life at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, and that was then seen by millions of people in dozens of countries all over the world, was the most successful photographic exhibition of all time; it has also remained a source of contentious debate and controversy among critics and academics down to the present day.

The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age radically revises the critical debate about The Family of Man, challenging in particular the legacy of influential accounts of the exhibition by the likes of Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, and Hilton Kramer. The contributors to the volume - scholars from Europe and the United States - explore new ways of understanding the exhibition. By placing the work in new contexts and critical frameworks, they offer surprising new analyses of the formal dynamics of the exhibition. The volume also presents documents about the exhibition never before available in English: penetrating commentaries by critical theorist Max Horkheimer and novelist Wolfgang Koeppen; letters from photographer August Sander; and a full poetic sequence on the images by Polish poet Witold Wirpsza. These documents enable and encourage new critical reflections, and an account of a detailed survey of audience responses in Munich from 1955 allows a rare glimpse of what visitors thought about the exhibition. Today, when armed conflict, environmental catastrophe, and economic inequality continue to threaten our future, and when new critical orientations are emerging in the Humanities, it is timely to revisit The Family of Man.

“[The Family of Man] was a real shock for me … they showed so much and they told so much these pictures, these photographs, told so much about modern life, my life … This was really new.” Gerhard Richter

Edward Steichen, Luxembourg-born artist, photographer and director of the Department of Photography at MoMA, induced the donation of the last complete travelling version of The Family of Man by the U.S. Government to his birth country in 1964. The Collection has been on permanent display at Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg since 1994. It was added to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2003.

A collaboration between The Museum of Modern Art, the Steichen Collections at the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA) Luxembourg, Akkasah – Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi, and the Center for American Studies at University of Trier (TCAS), Germany

With the support of the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture and the Consulate General of Luxembourg in New York

A publication by I.B.Tauris, 2018