During the years 1954 to 1963 nine million people attended what was called ‘the greatest photographic exhibition of all times.’ It opened in January 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and was based on the concept of “the family of man” and “mankind is one.” Created by Edward J. Steichen from a collection he began to prepare in 1951, the collection drew on 2 million photographs sent to him from all over the world. Indeed, while Steichen was making the final selection of 273 photographs from 68 countries whittled down from 10,000 photographs in the years 1952 to 1954, DNA was discovered and much else happened in that fertile period two year period in history.
The collection began a second life in the early 1990s in Luxembourg. The photographs were restored and the memories of the hopes and aspirations of millions of men and women, focused as they had been in the early 1950s on peace, on their concerns for the emerging Cold War and the new atomic bomb, were preserved by means of this restorative photographic process. This courageous and provocative photographic undertaking, the vision of one man, with its universal appeal to human dignity, was recreated forty years after its first opening in New York. The serious preparations for this recreation were made in a second Holy Year, 1992-3, as the final sifting of the original collection took place in the first Holy Year of the international Bahá'í community, 1952-3.–Ron Price with appreciation to “The Genius of Photography,” ABC1 TV, 28 February 2010, 11:40-12:40 a.m.
There was no real photography
family back then in those early
‘50s-just a humanistic message-
an abstract tone-poem-which in
its various ways avoided all the
historical, political, ideological1
realities which make for a true
and genuinely graphic family of
man. No photographer had in
those years commitments: not
Henri Cartier-Bresson or Robert
Capa, nor David Seymour or Wm
Vandivert or any of the members
of Magnum, an organization with
no relationship with Clint Eastwood.
Cultured and not-so-cultured, modest
and not-so-modest, avoiders as well as
seekers of ostentation, these men had a
quiet and not-so-quiet sensitivity, sharp
awareness of the pain of suffering and an
understated appreciation of others' humanity,
almost as if he were attempting to restore a
more distinguished order to a senseless world.3
1 This point was given great emphasis in the doco “The Genius of Photography: Part 1,” ABC1 TV, 28 February 2010, 11:40-12:40 a.m.
2 This prose-poem does not avoid ideology and commitment, history and endless modesty and ostentation. The history of photography and the history of the Bahá'í Faith can, arguably, be taken back to 1826 when the first photograph was made. That year the US President John Adams, whose life is associated in a series of remarkable ways with the emergence of the American democracy, died and the leader of the Shaykhi school of the Ithna-Ashariyyih sect of Shi’ah Islam, Shaykh Ahmad, passed away leaving the Shaykhi School in the hands of Siyyid Kazim until 31 December 1843 at which time a negligible offshoot of that school began to emerge and, in the years ahead, was transformed into a new world religion.
3 See the internet site “1947 Founders: Magnum In Motion.”
After watching the forth and final Part on 21 March, as the autumnal and vernal equinox turned their corner, I wrote the following addition to the above prose-poem.-Ron Price
170 years is not such a long time
for a history to take place in the
span of a 13.6 billion year span
since the big bang. Still, a great
deal has happened on this very
mortal coil and photography has
delighted, served, moved and, yes,
outraged us all—well—not all of us.
The rigid divisions in this new art
have collapsed and, now, this art is
anything you want it to be, anything!
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