Monday, June 2, 2014

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan

Edward Curtis's images of the American Indian, taken over a 30-year period beginning at the end of the 19th century, are amazing and I would love to see one of the original printings of his work, The North American Indian.  However, Egan has left me wondering if I would actually like the man.  He seems to have been obsessive, irresponsible, self-centered, and thrill-seeking.  Even though his project to document the lives of the extant North American Indian tribes was kind of all about him, he seems to have known it was important to keep a record of the vanishing languages, myths, ceremonies and histories of the remaining North American tribes, and that it was critical to document the humanity of individual men, women and children. And indeed it was, even more so than his original backers and the people who remaindered his books and plates could have imagined.

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