Beginning in 1900 and continuing over the next thirty years, Edward Sheriff Curtis, or the “Shadow Catcher” as he was later called by some of the tribes, took over 40,000 images and recorded rare ethnographic information from over eighty First American tribal groups, ranging from the Eskimo or Inuit people of the far north to the Hopi people of the Southwest. He captured the likeness of many important and well-known aboriginal people of that time, including Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, Medicine Crow and others. This monumental accomplishment is comprised of more than 2,200 sepia toned photogravures bound in twenty volumes of written information and small images and twenty portfolios of larger artistic representations. As one admires the beauty of the Curtis photographs they must be placed in a proper perspective. In spite of the dedication and hardships the photographer had to endure, the ultimate beauty of “The North American Indian” lies not only with the genius of Curtis, but also and most importantly, within his subjects. The native beauty, strength, pride, honor, dignity and other admirable characteristics may have been recorded by photographic techniques, but they were first an integral part of the people. While Curtis was a master technician, the First American people possessed the beauty and their descendants carry on these same traits today.
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