In 1955, MoMA opened what has been hailed as the most successful exhibition of photography ever assembled. Edward Steichen’s monumental “The Family of Man” compiled 503 photos, arranged by the stages of life, showing Earth’s citizens, irrespective of country, caste or creed, in common experience: workers, loafers, fighters, lovers, healers, hunters. On the heels of world war, the collection celebrated the essential universality of the human experience.
Over 50 years later, the exhibit’s companion book remains a timeless classic. And while the new book The Brooklynites (PowerHouse Books, $35) isn’t exactly sending it to the sale rack, it’s trouncing it on Amazon.
The Brooklynites presents portraits of people from all four corners of, well, the borough. Photographer Seth Kusher (whose images have graced our lucky pages) and writer Anthony LaSalsa (Brooklynites both) teamed up to capture images and interviews of borough residents from the famous to the nameless, and the result is reminiscent of Steichen’s magnum opus. Although the subjects—deejay, fireman, teacher, boxer, court clerk, metalsmith, actor, veteran, homemaker, accordion player, barber, Coney Island freak-show director—live within a few square miles of one another, the melting-pot message plays like that buoyant global philosophy of unity.
Yes, both books study the gamut of food experiences, the former from beggars to feasters, the latter from a liquor-store owner to a fisherman and from Peter Luger’s Steakhouse to Totonno’s Pizzeria. But for once we’re not in it for what’s edible: buy both books and chew on the essential oneness of the world, and Brooklyn.