In a lot of interviews lately, people ask me about my artistic influences. Besides the great Impressionists, my favorite photographer is Edward S. Curtis. After responding, I notice that many people have not heard of him. That’s understandable, I suppose. So I decided to put together this little page to show off some of his work that I find to be the most compelling.
He was born in 1868. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a photographer back then. Those guys were hardcore, and Curtis was especially so. He lived with American Indians for months on end with all of his equipment and had to keep everything in perfect working condition. It’s amazing!
Curtis collected over 40,000 images from 80 tribes. In his first volume he wrote, “The information that is to be gathered … respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost.” Besides all the images, he also made 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of their language and music. What a guy!
Get this. This is wild. His wife divorced him in 1919. She got his studio and original camera negatives in the settlement. To spite her, Curtis went with his daughter to the studio and destroyed all the original glass negatives! He didn’t want them getting into the hands of his ex.
Below are some of his best images, in my opinion. I own a print of the first one. It’s called “Waiting in the Forest – Cheyenne” and it was taken in 1910. The official description describes the scene: “At dusk in the neighborhood of the large encampments young men closely wrapped in non-committal blankets or white cotton sheets, may be seen gliding about the tipis or standing motionless in the shadow of trees, each alert for the opportunity to steal a meeting with his sweetheart.”