Shamoon Zamir (New York University Abu Dhabi) discusses the 'The Family of Man' exhibition and its related archives.
Apart from early reviewers and commentators, everyone who has written on the famous The Family of Man Exhibition has done so without the benefit of having seen it at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955 in its original iteration. The reliance on the book of the exhibition has consequently substituted for the exhibition and greatly distorted our understanding of Edward Steichen’s curatorial design. Shown, according to one count, in more than 40 countries and seen by over 9 million people, The Family of Man was a defining event in the global history of photography. This paper attempts to explore the ways in which the Museum of Modern Art’s archives and the archives of the United States Information Agency help us revise this history and develop new perspectives on Steichen’s exhibition.