Family of Man Exhibition

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FAMILY OF MAN EXHIBITION. After four years of preparation, Edward Steichen's Family of Man exhibition made its debut on 24 January 1955 at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. Steichen received more than two million photographs from professionals and amateurs from around the world. With the help of his wife, Joan, and his assistant, Wayne Miller, Steichen selected 503 pictures by 273 photographers from 68 countries and grouped them around themes relevant to all cultures: love, birth, children, death, work, play, pleasure and pain, fears and hopes, tears and laughter. Steichen aimed to show "the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world" during the Cold War. He found the title for his exhibition in a speech by Abraham Lincoln, in which Lincoln had used the expression "family of man." After leaving New York, the exhibition was shown in thirty-seven countries. It became the most popular exhibition in the history of photography, drawing more than nine million visitors from 1955 to 1964. Following the exhibit's world tour, the U.S. government gave the collection to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, fulfilling Steichen's wish that the "most important work of his life" be permanently housed in his country of birth.


Brennen, Bonnie, and Hanno Hardt, eds. Picturing the Past. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Mary AnneHansen

See alsoArt: Photography .