The Family of Man (MoMA Exh. #569, January 24-May 8, 1955) was composed of 503 photographs grouped thematically around subjects pertinent to all cultures, such as love, children, and death. After its initial showing at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955, the exhibition toured the world for eight years, making stops in thirty-seven countries on six continents. In this photograph, Edward Steichen, former Director of the Museum’s Department of Photography, leads a group of visitors through The Family of Man at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy for Creative Arts) in Berlin in 1955. The photographs included in the exhibition focused on the commonalties that bind people and cultures around the world and the exhibition served as an expression of humanism in the decade following World War II.
The Family of Man circulated internationally under the auspices of the Museum’s International Program, founded in 1952 to develop and tour circulating exhibitions, including United States Representations at international exhibitions and festivals, one-person shows, and group exhibitions. Since the founding of the International Program, The Museum of Modern Art exhibitions have had hundreds of showings around the world.
The Museum’s long-standing interest in photography grew out of founding Director Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s original and radical, multi-departmental plan for the Museum. Photography was exhibited as early as 1932 with Murals by American Painters and Photographers (MoMA Exh. #16, May 3-May 31, 1932). Eight years later the Department of Photography was founded as an independent curatorial department with Beaumont Newhall as curator; by 1947 the department was under the directorship of Edward Steichen, curator of The Family of Man, who held the post until 1962.