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In the Shadow of Blackbirds
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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis - Timothy Egan From President Theodore Roosevelt's forward to The North American Indian:In Mr. Curtis we have both an artist and a trained observer, whose pictures are pictures, not merely photographs; whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful. All serious students are to be congratulated because he is putting his work in permanent form; for our generation offers the last chance for doing what Mr. Curtis has done. The Indian as he has hitherto been is on the point of passing away. His life has been lived under conditions through which our own race passed so many ages ago that not a vestige of their memory remains. It would be a veritable calamity if a vivid and truthful record of these conditions were not kept. No one man alone could preserve such a record in complete form. Others have worked in the past, and are working in the present, to preserve parts of the record; but Mr. Curtis, because of the singular combination of his qualities with which he has been blest, and because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities, has been able to do what no other man has ever done; what, as far as we can see, no other man could do. He is an artist who works out of doors and not in the closet. He is a close observer, whose qualities of mind and body fit him to make his observations out in the field, surrounded by the wild life he commemorates. He has lived on intimate terms with many different tribes of the mountains and the plains. He knows them as they hunt, as they travel, as they go about their various avocations on the march and in the camp. He knows their medicine men and their sorcerers, their chiefs and warriors, their young men and maidens. He has not only seen their vigorous outward existence, but has caught glimpses, such as few white men ever catch, into that strange spiritual and mental life of theirs; from whose innermost recesses all white men are barred. Mr. Curtis in publishing this book is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our own people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere.The story of Edward Curtis' life is extraordinary. A self-made man who served the passion of his life as a naturalist, writer, photographer, historian, filmmaker, politician, publicist, salesman, lecturer, anthropologist; recording, photographing and documenting the native people of North America just after the turn of the twentieth century. Not only was he a talented artist behind the lens of a camera, noted photographer Imogene Cunningham "saw in Curtis someone on par with the mighty Stieglitz", he was doing important anthropological work on such a scale that it ultimately bankrupted him financially, and cost him nearly everything that was dear to him. Near the end of his life he wrote in a letter, "I devoted thirty-three years to gathering text material and pictures for the twenty volumes. I did this as a contribution; without salary, direct or indirect financial returns. When I was through with the last volume, I did not possess enough money to buy a ham sandwich; yet the books will remain the outstanding story of the Indian." N. Scott Momaday, "Taken as a whole, the work of Edward Curtis is a singular achievement. Never before have we seen the Indians of North America so close to the origins of their humanity, their sense of themselves in the world, their innate dignity and self-possession."This is a mirror into our nation's history in historical, political, financial, anthropological ways. I was awed by the courage that Curtis mustered to serve his creative passion to publish an unprecedented archive of Indian life. Despite the exacting toll that it took on him personally and financially, he completed his arduous task. In doing so, he did work that had never been done before, and will likely never again be attempted on such a scale. He was truly a man born to do this job and he gave his entire being to the work. This is a remarkable story. Having visited several of the important destinations sought out by Curtis, this book brings to me a deeper resonance of American history through this one man's creative life. Highly recommended.