Friday, February 07, 2014

The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis

Bonnie and I enjoyed listening to Timothy Egan when he spoke about his writing Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis last summer at the American Library Association Annual Conference. We both also enjoyed Egan's book. What would be great now is to see the original prints or the twenty volumes of The North American Indian, his encyclopedic work on the native tribes of the continent.

My original intent today was to review The Art of Edward S. Curtis: Photographs from The North American Indian by Tom Beck. Bonnie requested it and I enjoyed looking at it. Beck introduces readers to the story of Edward Curtis and includes a selection of Curtis's photographs. I think the book is particularly useful because the author explains that Curtis was sometimes more interested producing art than in accurate ethnographic information. He was totally dedicated to the cause of the American Indians but he could be misled by his subjects and spread misinformation.

Looking at the book I felt a bit disappointed in the quality of the reproductions. Of course, it is a nearly 20 year old inexpensive publication and the paper is not of high quality. I wondered if I could find better images on the web. And I could. In fact, Northwestern University has digitized set number 458 of the limited editions of The North American Indian. You can read the whole thing or just look at the pictures online. Go to

So, I've gotten what I wished. I can look at it all. Will I find the time?

Actually, I would like to hold and look in an actual print volume, too.

Beck, Tom. The Art of Edward S. Curtis: Photographs from The North American Indian. Chartwell Books, 1995. 128p. ISBN 0785804102.

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