Ruth Orkin’s series “The Cardplayers” was the only sequence that Edward Steichen included in the The Family of Man exhibition that was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955.
A ‘Family of Man’ Reunion
By David Gonzalez
The idea that a photo exhibit could capture “the essential oneness of mankind” seems either arrogant or naïve today. Headlines about conflict and violence remind us daily that no, we can’t all get along. And the rise of ethnic pride, identity politics and access to image-making technology have upended stereotypes. Yet 60 years ago theMuseum of Modern Art set out to do just that when it mounted “The Family of Man,” an ambitious exhibit and book that changed the landscape of modern photography.
The book — the museum’s most popular publication ever with more than 300,000 copies sold — is a foundational volume, familiar to pretty much any photographer working in the latter half of the 20th century. But it also had tremendous popular appeal, so much so that proceeds from the book’s sales endowed an acquisition fund that has allowed MoMA to purchase more than 700 works. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of its publication, the museum has come out with a special hardcover edition of the book that is a facsimile of the original edition.
The book features 503 images by 273 photographers — from the famous to the unknown — all of which were used by Edward Steichen and his assistant, Wayne Miller, to orchestrate a grand vision of humanity, showing people around the world working, playing, fighting and loving. They were placed carefully in the layout, creating a visual and emotional rhythm.