SHADOW CATCHER
True West|September 2021
THE MAN WHO SAVED 100 NATIONS
TRICIA LOSCHER, JAMES D. BALESTIERI

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) was a 19th-century Western pioneer and entrepreneur, known for his photography, ethnography, writing, filmmaking, and even gold-prospecting and patents. His story is filled with courage, character and determination, and an understanding that life is more than survival. From the 1890s on, Curtis took thousands of photographs of Indigenous people across the American West and produced his monumental work The North American Indian (1907-1930), a 20-volume publication illustrated with photographs and text. Curtis’s project became the largest anthropological enterprise ever undertaken in the U.S. and was supported by Theodore Roosevelt and funded in part by John Pierpont Morgan.

“Light and Legacy: The Art and Techniques of Edward S. Curtis” offers Scottsdale’s Museum of the West’s guests an opportunity to view the breadth and depth of Curtis’s work, artistry, photographic techniques and lifetime achievements. Featuring iconic and rarely seen images, this exhibition includes the 20 volumes of The North American Indian, original photogravures and copper plates, rare goldtones or Curt-Tones, platinum prints, silver gelatins, cyanotypes, glass-plate negatives and ephemera. Visitors will hear recordings selected from thousands that Curtis and his field team made as part of the ethnological data for The North American Indian project.

Curtis’s multifaceted contributions to the Western canon were declared important by his contemporaries, while today he is often viewed as a Renaissance man, having also contributed to the art and science of photography. His ability to adapt and persevere when faced with changing and difficult environments has long been appreciated. We hope the essence of Curtis’s gift as a maker of images will be more fully revealed, and that this exhibition offers a deep and rich understanding of his accomplishments as an artist, while paying homage to the crucial role of Native American participants in actualizing this iconic body of work.

“Light and Legacy,” featured in the Halle Foundation Great Hall and the Pulliam Fine Arts Gallery, opens to the public on October 19, 2021. The Curtis exhibition is sponsored by the Peterson Family; Charles F., Jennifer E., and John U. Sands; Scottsdale Art Auction; and the City of Scottsdale and its Tourism Development Commission. —Tricia Loscher

APACHE AND NAVAJO

Edward Curtis commenced his ambitious project among the Apache, Jicarilla, and Navajo people. Some of his most celebrated and reproduced images come from this first volume, Cañon de Chelly– Navaho and The Vanishing Race–Navaho, the first image in the series, among them. Still, another image, later in the portfolio, Out of the Darkness–Navaho, is almost a film clip of Vanishing Race run in reverse. Curtis connected Navajos and Apaches through common aspects of their languages and contradicted the prevailing view of Apaches as primitive and warlike. Instead, his imagery and text paint these people as infinitely resourceful, fiercely loyal, devoutly religious, artistic storytellers. In photographs such as Apache Medicine Man, Curtis’s painterly understanding of light, combined with his darkroom skill, sculpts the figure out of the surrounding darkness, suggesting the longevity and sacredness of the medicine man’s ritual with finely drawn subtlety. —Portfolio essays by James D. Balestrieri

Out of the Darkness (Navajo)

Volume 1, Portfolio plate 37 (1904)

Courtesy NYPL Digital Collections

Son of the Desert–Navajo

Volume 1, Portfolio plate 32 (1904)

Silver Photograph Courtesy The Tim Peterson Family Collection

Eskadi–Apache Volume 1, Portfolio plate 16 (1903)

Son of the Desert–NavajoCourtesy Library of Congress (1904)

Haschogan–Navajo Volume 1, Facing page 94 (1904)

Vash–Gon–Jicarilla Volume 1, Portfolio 1 plate 20 (1904)

THE CEREMONIES

Photographs of ceremonies lead us to the recordings of songs, the lists of words, the stories set down—aspects of Curtis’s work that are not summed up in the images you see here but are nevertheless crucial to understanding the scope of his endeavor. “Light and Legacy: The Art and Techniques of Edward S. Curtis” at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is one of the first exhibitions to combine Curtis’s visual artistry with recordings of his actual documentation of Indigenous languages. Curtis spent a great deal of time living among the peoples you see here, earning their trust. As he wrote in a letter late in his life, he tried to work “with Indians,” not “at them,” as he felt other anthropologists and ethnographers did.

Buffalo Dance at Hano Volume 12, Facing page 178 (1904) Courtesy Library of Congress

Arikara medicine ceremony: The bears Volume 5, Facing page 74 (1908)

An Incident of the Winter Dance–Nakoaktok Volume 10, Facing page 210 (1914)

Prayer to the Mystery (Sioux) Volume 3, Portfolio plate 91 (1907)

Hefatyu Society–Cheyenne Sun Dance Volume 19, Facing page 114 (1927)

Sun Dance in Progress–Cheyenne Volume 6, Facing page 128 (1910)

The Altar–Arikara Volume 5, Facing page 68 (1908)

THE NORTHWEST

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TRUE WESTView All

CHILE QUEENS

For two centuries, locals and visitors to the public plazas of San Antonio, Texas, dined on the famous fiery cuisine.

8 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

Native History Celebrated Large

Only months old, the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City is dedicated to truth-telling.

2 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

Rocky Mountain Bonanzas

Explore mining history from Cripple Creek to Grand Encampment.

6 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

My Top Ten Favorite Movie Moments

True West’s Firearms Editor applauds authenticity.

4 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

Bruce Boxleitner

James Arness made all the difference in his storied film and television career.

4 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

Saloons, Paniolos and Telegraphs

ASK THE MARSHALL

3 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

TAMER OF RATON PASS

“UNCLE DICK” WOOTTON HELPED BUILD A NATION WITH HIS SANTA FE TRAIL

7 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

TRUTH IN BLACK AND WHITE

THE MULTITALENTED ACTOR WHO PLAYED JOHNNY RINGO IN TOMBSTONE REFLECTS ON KEVIN JARRE’S SCRIPT AND THE FILM’S PRODUCTION.

6 mins read
True West
February - March 2022

TOMBSTONE ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

HISTORIANS, ACTORS AND FILM CRITICS WEIGH IN ON KEVIN JARRE’S ORIGINAL SCRIPT—AND WHETHER IT SHOULD BE REMADE AND FINALLY GET ITS DUE.

10+ mins read
True West
February - March 2022

WAS IT SUICIDE OR DOC?

Doc Holliday did not kill John Ringo. Nor did Wyatt Earp kill him. Most of the important evidence has already been presented by others here.

6 mins read
True West
February - March 2022
RELATED STORIES

The Storyteller

GH's Donnell Turner Weighs In On A Year Of Big Changes For Curtis.

7 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
January 24, 2022

Hot Plots Preview!

What Will Happen

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
December 06, 2021

Julie Curtiss

In Her Wildest Dreams

10+ mins read
JUXTAPOZ
Fall 2021

General hospital

THANK U, NEXT Liz learns that Cameron and Josslyn is a couple. She and Cam note that Franco would want them to be happy... Carly shares her grief over Sonny with Laura, who offers her support of Carly’s engagement.... Dante makes it clear to Olivia that his closeness with Sam is off-limits as a topic... Eager to have privacy with Sasha, Brando tells his mom to move out. Gladys reluctantly accepts Sasha’s offer to work at Deception.

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
August 16, 2021

general hospital

flashback to 2014 Irreconcilable Differences: Britt (Kelly Thiebaud) and Nikolas (then-Tyler Christopher) were once engaged, but he dumped her for stealing his sister Lulu’s embryo and giving birth to Rocco, who Britt dubbed Ben.

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
August 09, 2021

SURFING OVER LAND

Curtis Cole’s Hilux Surf was engine-swapped and overland-equipped in record time

3 mins read
Four Wheeler
July 2021

GAMECHANGER - ZEKE COHEN

City Councilman, educator, advocate

2 mins read
Baltimore magazine
March 2021

general hospital

LATE BREAKING NEWS

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
January 11, 2021

A YEAR IN 60 SECS: TIKTOK LISTS TOP VIDEOS, CREATORS OF 2020

From skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac to learning Cardi B’s rump-shaking choreography, TikTok users got creative in a pandemic year with new songs, dances, and memes in 60 seconds or less.

3 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #475

Glenn H. Curtiss

The fastest man in the world ... bullets are his only rival! - 1907

8 mins read
Born To Ride Florida
November 2020