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Family of Man

In 1955, the Museum of Modern Art staged an exhibition titled The Family of Man. I wasn't alive then, but in my childhood, I often took the accompanying book out of the library, and as an adult, I bought a copy. The list of famous photographers (and photographs, like Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother") is impressive, but what I loved and continue to love is, first, seeing powerful moments in human experience from all over the world--grieving, celebrating, solitary and in pairs and crowds--and second, what things it chose to celebrate: not only birth and death, childhood and old age, work and play, but also education, rule of law, justice.

I love so much how hard it tried to be inclusive. A large number of the photos come from the United States and Western Europe, but they managed to get one or two from the Soviet Union, a fair number from Asia, and some from Africa, South America, and Australia. No single exhibition or photo essay can do everything and nothing's beyond criticism, but every time I come to the book,** I'm moved.

If you image search on "family of man," you'll come up with many sample photos, but here are a few that caught my eye this morning that don't come up on an image search

These, for learning to write:

photo: David Seymour

photos: John Philips (L) and Roman Vishniac (R)

This, because contemplating the deep questions of life is hard work:

photo: Bert Hardy

This, for the powerful pairing of words and image:

photo: Homer Page

And these, for enduring relationships ... limited in only showing heterosexual pairs, but still moving.

photos: Emmy Andriesse (L) and Dmitri Kessel (R)

photos: Alma Lavenson (L) and Alfred Eisenstaedt (R)

I apologize for cutting off the sides of some of these with the scanner!

Last, because birds, light, dark, beauty, sun:

photo: William Garnett

I was looking through this because I was making my own photo collection the other day, to serve as prompts for the class I do creative writing with. It includes two photos from The Family of Man (not shown here). I'm proud of it! I'll share it at some point...

**The book was designed by the artist Leo Lionni, who I like for the children's picture book Frederick.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/868976.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2017 07:18 am (UTC)
I grew up with this book! My grandparents sent it to my parents as a present, and I know every photograph, and most of the interspersed quotations - we two form a multitude, if I did not work, these worlds would perish, oh, wonderful, most wonderful! the universe resounds with the joyful cry: I am!

Yes, it's a stunning exhibition - brilliantly curated, I realise in retrospect. The book entranced me as a child.
Nov. 19th, 2017 06:53 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy to hear this--I feel that yes, every page and every quotation is **worth** having imprinted in one's memory <3
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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