Two landmark photography books were published in the middle ‘50s in the United States. The first, “The Family of Man,” showcased an exhibition put together for the Museum of Modern Art by its photography curator, Edward Steichen. That book wound up—or so it seemed at the time—on every other middle-class coffee table in the country. The other, much smaller book presented 83 images by a little-known Swiss émigré named Robert Frank. In its first year of publication in the United States, “The Americans” sold only 600 copies, and what reviews it received were mostly awful. But in the decades since, it’s “The Americans” that has triumphed. Today “The Family of Man” is dismissed by most critics as a well-meant but overorchestrated attempt to show our common humanity through images of various cultures eating, dancing, singing, etc. “The Americans,” in contrast, was a dark, brooding book that made no attempt at evenhandedness. Yet today, 50 years after it was first published, it is “The Americans” that looks fresh every time we open it. Literature, Ezra Pound said, is “news that stays news.” You could say the same about “The Americans.” (via Photography: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ at 50 | Newsweek Arts Extra | Newsweek.com)

The Family of Man was a photography exhibit curated by Edward Steichen first shown in 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. According to Steichen, the exhibition represented the ‘culmination of his career’. The 503 photos by 273 photographers in 68 countries were selected from almost 2 million pictures submitted by famous and unknown photographers.[1] These photos offer a striking snapshot of the human experience which lingers on birth, love, and joy, but also touches war, privation, illness and death. His intention was to prove visually the universality of human experience and photography’s role in its documentation. The exhibit was turned into a book of the same name, containing an introduction by Carl Sandburg who was Steichen’s brother-in-law. The book was reproduced in a variety of formats (most popularly a pocket-sized volume) in the 1950s, and reprinted in large format for its 40th anniversary. It has sold more than 4 million copies. The exhibition later travelled in several versions to 38 countries. More than 9 million people viewed the exhibit. The only surviving edition was presented to Luxembourg, the country of Steichen’s birth, and is on permanent display in Clervaux.

The Pond—Moonlight by Edward Steichen, 1904

The Pond—Moonlight is a pictorialist photograph by Edward Steichen. The photograph was made in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York, and features a forest across a pond, with part of the moon appearing over the horizon in a gap in the trees. The Pond—Moonlight is an early color photograph, created through the use of light-sensitive gums. Only three copies are known to exist. In February 2006, a print of the photograph sold for US $2.6 million, at the time, the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction. (via The Pond—Moonlight – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)