Edward CurtisEdward S. Curtis was a renowned photographer and documenter of Native American life in the early 20th century. His works, which include more than 40,000 photographs, are still widely used in different print and digital media: in books, web articles, even music album covers, that those not familiar will have at one time or another seen one. In addition, and this I’ve only recently found out, he’s also directed a 65-minute silent film on the Kwakiutl tribe in 1914 called In the Land of the Head Hunters.

The following excerpts and photos are from the Edward S. Curtis collection in Shared Legacies:

According to Curtis, his ambition was to photograph “The Vanishing Race.” He therefore embarked upon a thirty year undertaking to document Native American Indian cultures within the immensely ambitious project titled The North American Indian. This comprised of a set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with photo-engravings from his glass plate negatives.

By 1930 the modest popularity of Curtis’ work had diminished and the North American Indian Corporation, the business enterprise overseeing his ethnographic ventures, soon liquidated its assets. When he died in 19 October 1952, his lifework with Native American Indians had all but faded into obscurity. “Rediscovered” in the 1960s and 1970s, Curtis’ photographic work is now recognised as one of the most significant records of the Native American Indian culture ever produced.

A heavy load - Sioux

A heavy load – Sioux

Hopi mother

Hopi mother

Bear's Belly - Arikara

Bear’s Belly – Arikara

The oath

The oath

Taos Water Girls

Taos Water Girls

And a clip from In the Land of the Head Hunters