Edward Steichen

The Family of Man

1955’s The Family of Man, an ambitious exhibition that brought together hundreds of images by photographers working around the world, was a forthright declaration of global solidarity in the decade following World War II. The exhibition, organized by noted photographer and director of MoMA’s Department of Photography Edward Steichen, took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience. Steichen had invited photographers to submit photographs for consideration, explaining that his aim was to capture “the gamut of life from birth to death”—a task for which, he argued, photography was uniquely suited. The exhibition toured the world for eight years, attracting an estimated 10 million visitors. See the full installation and more on our website as part of our exhibition history.

Dancer Martha Graham, New York, 1931. Photograph by Edward Steichen.

Steichen could not take photographs in motion, which could have made photographing dancers difficult. So when working with dancers he had them move into sculpted gestures and hold them for an instant. The most popular example of this from the Taft Museum of Art exhibit is a photo of dancer Martha Graham.