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In this essay Solomon-Godeau explores what is coded by absence in The Family of Man, one of the most famous projects in post–World War II photography. Solomon-Godeau examines the recent permanent restaging of the exhibition in Luxembourg and its prior history. For Solomon-Godeau, and drawing on the arguments of Viktoria Schmitt-Linsonoff, this Cold War blockbuster is better viewed not so much as a token of American triumphalism but as a covert symptom of American trauma. The nature of this trauma is complex, occasioned by the war itself, the revelation of genocide, the new threat of nuclear destruction, and the effects of demobilization on notions of manhood. But where should this symptomization of trauma be located? In those who produced the curatorial project (Edward Steichen and his assistants)? In the American picture press from which most of the images were drawn? Or somewhere in the general Cold War psyche? Solomon-Godeau therefore seeks to identify the structuring absences of the exhibition and its catalogue through a methodical analysis of the sources and subjects of the 503 photographs and their suturing into a naturalized whole.

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