The Family of Man

As a young child, there was a always a copy of this book lying around the house.  I think it was given as a wedding gift to my parents, and, from the time I was old enough to sit and turn the pages, it was one of my favorite books.

The photos were first displayed as a group in 1955 as an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  The exhibit included photos by Robert Doisneau, Ruth Orkin, Lewis Carroll, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and many others.

Carl Sandberg wrote in his prologue of the book, "The first cry of a newborn baby in Chicago or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, "I am!  I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family."

All aspects of the human life-cycle and the human condition are depicted:  from youth to old age, birth to death, from joy to sorrow, from love to anger, strife to peace, isolation to inter-connectedness, and everything in between...  I feel as though looking at this book as a young child shaped me and opened me. I have the copy from my childhood home tucked into my own bookshelf now... it's pages are very fragile and so I recently purchased a new copy for my children to enjoy.

 I hope my children love this book as much as I did...

Note: If you are inspired to share this book with your children, too, I recommend previewing it first.  While I don't think any of the images are inappropriate to share with a child, each family has it's own feelings about what is and is not appropriate.  Also, the photos are powerful and some of them raw.  My 8 year old son found a few of the images disturbing, which led us to some good discussions about the images and his reactions.  You know your children and will use your own discretion, I'm sure!


  1. We had this book too. I loved it also. I recently came across a copy at Goodwill and laminated the pages to use in my classroom with my preschoolers. Thanks for posting.

  2. this brought back memories - exact same experience here! wedding gift for my parents - one of my favorite books!! sorry i'm typing in strange phrases, it's a no-sleep-baby night and past midnight :( but thanks for this post, i recognized the book right away from the cover.

  3. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa in the 70's. My parents decided that the state controlled television was poisonous so we went without. For which I am deeply grateful now as an adult. With the cultural and media boycott of South Africa we knew very little about the outside world. We had a threadbare tatty copy of this book, and it was literally my window on the world. No other book of photographs has moved, inspired, or saddened me as this book has. I look at it at least once a month and each time feel overwhelmed by the power of the images. It should be essential for every school library. Actually, make that for every person on the planet.


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