In the mid 1950's, New York Museum of Modern Art photography curator Edward Steichen created the Family of Man exhibition. A huge array of photographs from around the world celebrated the human race as a unified global family. Since then, this approach has become a genre that continuously rises and falls in popularity as the world's geopolitics develop.
"Family, A Celebration of Humanity," edited by James McBride, is such a project. Beginning as an international photo contest organized by New Zealand publisher Geoff Blackwell, the book turns out to be a beautiful and precious object. This is a book that wants to define the experience of family through the lenses of numerous photographic witnesses. As a result, the book strikes a balance between the homogeneity of the concept and the diverse response from the individual photographers, professional and amateur. The wide range of views, not in geographic or even ethnographic scope, but in the richness of the moments, powers this book.
Again after again, "Family" surprises. From births to weddings, to funerals, to mundane and intimate moments, the viewer witnesses a wide array of unpredictable experiences. The turn of a page moves us instantly from a black-and-white snapshot of two men and a pregnant woman sitting on a sofa showing their big bellies, to the most solemn and beautiful color portraits of people holding images of their presumably dead loved ones.
Like the Family of Man, this book could be criticized for its attempt to reduce the human experience into a world of commonalities without accounting for the vast disparities and power struggles that often keep us apart. However, I found myself taken by the images and seduced by the design of this beautiful book.
Alfredo Sosa is the Monitor's feature photo editor.