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Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age

Lecture M. Victor Leventritt Lecture

Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

Hailed as the most successful exhibition of photography ever assembled, The Family of Man opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955 as a statement against war and the conflicts and divisions that threatened a common future for humanity after World War II. The unprecedented exhibition featured 503 images by 273 photographers from 69 countries, traveled throughout the United States and to 46 countries, and was seen by more than nine million people. Curator Edward Steichen described it as “a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world. Photographs made in all parts of the world, of the gamut of life from birth to death.” The exhibition catalogue, still in print, is the most commercially successful photobook ever published. Yet many critics have questioned Family of Man for its sentimental messages and its failure to address the challenges of historical, political, and cultural difference and social inequality.

In this talk, Makeda Best, the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, will be in conversation with Gerd Hurm, Anke Reitz, and Shamoon Zamir, editors of the recently published text The Family of Man Revisited: Photography in a Global Age (I. B. Tauris, 2017). Together they will discuss the landmark 1955 exhibition and how it shaped the ways we look at photography today; explore new contexts for interpreting the exhibition’s messages; and share recent research on its reception.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard and the Harvard Art Museums.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Seating will begin at 3:30pm.

Free admission, but limited seating is available. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 3:30pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

Support for the lecture is provided by the M. Victor Leventritt Fund, which was established through the generosity of the wife, children, and friends of the late M. Victor Leventritt, Harvard Class of 1935. The purpose of the fund is to present outstanding scholars of the history and theory of art to the Harvard and Greater Boston communities.

Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.