Arts & Entertainment

Blog: Edward Curtis captured humanity of the first Americans






"I’m a third-generation Westerner, so the photographs of Edward S. Curtis have been as much a part of my landscape as a desert mesa or a mountain glacier. I took him for granted: those faces of Native Americans, those everyday tasks, those searing looks from the inside of tepees lit by late daylight. In his pictures, ordinary people look extraordinary. He captured the humanity of the continent’s first inhabitants.

But it was only when I started looking at his life story for my book “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” — his slog by horse and hoof, train and auto to the attics and aeries of America, where Native Americans had been pushed to the margins — that I started to appreciate the scope of his masterpiece.

Curtis was a celebrity, the Annie Leibovitz of his day. He gave up a life as a prominent portrait photographer to start his Indian epic, and spent more than 30 years producing the 20 volumes of “The North American Indian.” It was called “the most gigantic undertaking since the making of the King James edition of the Bible” by The New York Herald."

Get the Story:
Lens: Immortal Images of Native Americans (The New York Times 10/12)