The Family of Man - first published in 1955 - is the pictorial record of one of the most riveting exhibitions of photography of all time. The book, which contains some text, is a poignant treasure of the human condition - from birth to death. It shows man's relation and connection to life, regardless of country or language and all that we share through love, pain, rituals and simply coping. The phrase " a picture is worth a thousand words" comes alive in The Family of Man.
In the same way an infant is captivated by a human face, so is the receptive reader drawn to the pages of this book, over and over again. In photographs taken around the world, the images remind us of the overwhelming preciousness of our all-too-short lives, the mystery of the universe, and the inherent potential of humankind to choose its own way. Making us aware of our responsibility to cherish life, to handle it tenderly and respectfully, for our own sake and for the benefit of our children, is its clear intent.I discovered this book on my parents' bookshelf at the age of six. It was my introduction to the world, as expressed through the images of others. Thanks to The Family of Man, I began to understand the vastness of the world, in contrast to my own small one.I saw more in those images with every passing year. The aphorisms from the world's great literature, printed alongside the photographs, became comprehensible to me as I learned to read words as I had been taught by this book to read human faces. I was impressed by our vast differences, and touched and comforted by the common humanity that we share with one another. The messages contained within this work are timeless and relevent. If I had the power to do so,I would place a copy of this book in every classroom of every grade of all the schools in the world. In my opinion, there is no one of any age for whom this book is not appropriate.I believe from the beginning we all want to be the best we can be; somehow along the way too many of us lose hope. This book reminds us of the worthiness of the pursuit of the meaning of life. Though as individual members of the global community we may be quite different, we nonetheless see in these pictures the implications of choices made for, and against life--and we are inspired to consider thoughtfully the implications of our everyday thoughts and acts.This may well be the first and greatest lesson in life.
I recently purchased this book, after having grown up with it in the 50s and 60s. The photographs are as stunning, vibrant and moving as I recall, and I realized that I had clearer memories of this collection of pictures than those in our family photo album - which probably says a lot about my family and cameras?! Anyway - there's something VERY 50s about these photos - the Germans look "German" - the Irish look "Irish", and so forth. This collection of photos presents a very UN-MELTED "melting pot" at the same time it reveals a universal humanity and compassion. There's palpable joy, sorrow, pain, love, beauty, ulginess and every other human emotion depicted here. It's a beautiful book you won't be sorry you got!
This book details the Family of Man photography exhibit composed of photos that Edward Steichen collected from photographers throughout the world. From the intro by Carl Sandburg (his brother in law), to the photographs of birth, life, death and the emotions and events in between, the book shows true humanity through the eyes of the camera. Featuring works by many famous, but yet unknown photographers, this book is a true treasure. When you glance at its pages you will discover new perspectives, or maybe something inside yourself. This is not a picture book, but a photo biography of the human race. If you are tired of coffee table books that sit unopened, pick up this book a few times and share it with your friends. You will read it again and again, discovering new secrets with every turn of a page.
I've always thought of THE FAMILY OF MAN as a magic book, ever since discovering it on the family bookshelves when I was a young child. The thing was (above and beyond the book's excellence and power to move anyone with a heart), for many years it seemed that every time I would delve into this book, there would be at least one new picture, one I could swear I'd never seen before. I still sometimes have that experience (although nowadays I tend to attribute it to an aging mind). I do remember at first being most impressed and guiltily fascinated by the powerful pictures of birth, which my siblings, our friends and I would look at, giggling in horrified wonder, and by those "nasty" (actually, beautiful) pictures of breastfeeding. I still remember our mom explaining that there was nothing "nasty" about any of those pictures, that they were true and lovely. That was only one of many life lessons she taught us, using images from this book.
Each image is a whole story, a world, unto itself, and the beauty is the connection of each one to all the others, just as we are all connected to each other in the family of man (as well as to all that the world comprises, like it or not). As others have written, I have given numerous copies of this book as gifts over the years. (That was not so successful when I gave it to my brother and sister-in-law as part of their wedding present. My brother had grown up with it, but his bride had never seen it before, and was somewhat horrified and disgusted by it; unfathomable to me. I don't think it lasted long in their home, if it ever made it there at all.Read more ›