Sunday, November 29, 2015

Edward S Curtis' photographs of the native North Americans

Edward S Curtis was a notable photographer of the native North Americans. This is a photograph of Kwakiutl canoes from British Columbia.

Mashable has put together a collection of his photos. Have a browse. They are quite spectacular.

Looking at the history of Curtis's life in Wikipedia (link above), he seems to have been a bit of a sad case. That may be wrong, of course. Certainly he doesn't seem to have been very business like in managing his affairs.

Still, with the financial support of J P Morgan, he left an unparalleled record of North American native Indian groups whose value survives to this day.


Michael O'Rourke said...

Hello Jim.

Curtis's work is full of charm. But of course right from the start it was criticised for fit its "inauthenticity". But then what is authentic. What we doing when we do posed shots or even candid shots.?
The same queries arise with the Dick photos fof Abl people at our Pt Macquarie.
the dilemma is this: if we criticise the work as inauthentic we avoid the question oif how much it nevertheless does "represent" the past. On the other hand if we do not spell out the " invented" nature of the photos we risk getting a merely cute concept of the psst.
Perhaps In Curtis's case, we need to find shots of native Americans from 1905 - 1925 driving cars, using the phone, going to the movies, and juxtapose them with his Noble Ssavages.
Returning to Australia, we can contrast Dick's work with that of Gillen. Unlike pt Macquarie and Dakota in 1910, in much of the Northern territory the lifestyle was still "untouched". Both men's work discussed in the book ed by the donaldsons called Seeing The First Australians.

But no denying the tremendous power of Curtis'S work.

Jim Belshaw said...

You put that very fairly, Michael. in the case of Curtis he took recordings and wrote notes as well. I could wish Thomas had.

My next express history revisited column is on Dick and his life. In looking at that, I found the Donaldson book. Well, more precisely, I found out about its existence. Isabel seems to have written the chapter on Thomas. I need to find and read.

Reading the material I had, I wondered about his end. It didn't seem quite right that he should be drowned on his fiftieth birthday, swept away by waves from a place he knew well. Four years earlier had written that he did not think he could complete his work because he was too handicapped. So I wondered. Just the biographer coming out in me.