The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age

The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age


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The Family of Man is the most widely seen exhibition in the history of photography. The book of the exhibition, still in print, is also the most commercially successful photobook ever published. First shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955, the exhibition travelled throughout the United States and to forty-six countries, and was seen by over nine million people. Edward Steichen conceived, curated and designed the exhibition. He explained its subject as 'the everydayness of life' and 'the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world'. The exhibition was a statement against war and the conflicts and divisions that threatened a common future for humanity after 1945. The popular international response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Many critics, however, have dismissed the exhibition as a form of sentimental humanism unable to address the challenges of history, politics and cultural difference.

This book revises the critical debate about The Family of Man, challenging in particular the legacy of Roland Barthes's influential account of the exhibition. The expert contributors explore new contexts for understanding Steichen's work and they undertake radically new analyses of the formal dynamics of the exhibition. Also presented are documents about the exhibition never before available in English. Commentaries by critical theorist Max Horkheimer and novelist Wolfgang Koeppen, letters from photographer August Sander, and a poetic sequence on the images by Polish poet Witold Wirpsza enable and encourage new critical reflections. 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, it seems timely to revisit The Family of Man.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784539672
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 12/20/2017
Pages: 318
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Gerd Hurm is Professor of American literature and Director of the Center for American Studies at the University of Trier, Germany. He has published widely in the fields of urban, media, and gender studies and he is currently researching the photography, aesthetics and curatorial politics of Edward Steichen.

Anke Reitz is a photography curator at the Centre national de l'audiovisuel (CNA) in Luxembourg and is in charge of the CNA's Steichen Collections The Family of Man and The Bitter Years. Her current focus is on audiovisual arts, photographic history and conservation, as well as art mediation.

Shamoon Zamir is Associate Professor of Literature and Visual Studies and Director of Akkasah: Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi. He works on American literature, photography and intellectual history. He is the author of The Gift of the Face: Portraiture and Time in Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian (2014) and co-editor of The Photobook (I.B. Tauris, 2012).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introduction: The Family of Man Revisited Shamoon Zamir Gerd Hurm 1

1 Reassessing Roland Barthes's Myth of The Family of Man Gerd Hurm 23

2 'The Family of Man - All of Us' (1958) and 'Photography' (1960) Max Horkheimer 47

3 Max Horkheimer and The Family of Man Martin Jay 57

4 'The Camera Will Not Miss Anything' (1955): The Family of Man at the Städtische Galerie Wolfgang Koeppen 71

5 Two Letters to Edward Steichen August Sander 73

6 The Family of Man in Munich: Visitors' Reactions Shamoon Zamir 77

7 The Family of Man: Looking at the Photographs Now and Remembering a Visit in the 1950s Werner Sollors 95

8 Picture and Image: Another Look at The Family of Man Winfried Fluck 117

9 Structures of Rhyme, Forms of Participation: The Family of Man as Exhibition Shamoon Zamir 133

10 A Humanism of Relation: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Place in The Family of Man Kerstin Schmidt 159

11 Re-exhibiting The Family of Man: Luxembourg 2013 Anke Reitz 177

12 Et in Arcadia Ego: The Family of Man as Cold War Pastoral Miles Orvell 191

13 The Family of Man and Post-war Debates about American Art Ulrike Gehring 211

14 Carl Sandburg's Journey to The Family of Man Eric J. Sandeen 221

15 Commentaries on Photographs: The Family of Man (1962) Witold Wirpsza 235

Bibliography 275

Notes on Contributors 283

Index 287

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