Monday, April 6, 2015

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

Photo: Edward C. Curtis
Photo: Edward C. Curtis
Honestly, I don't know where people get the time to read books (no matter the medium) these days- I lead a boring, humble life and even I don't have the time. Anyway, I'm actually three quarters of the way through Timothy Egan's biography of Edward Curtis; not exactly a gripping page turner, mind you, but it does help if you're into: photography, history and the American Indian.

It's also interesting to see how a simple case of photographic curiosity, voyeurism and outright exploitation (sound familiar, anyone?) developed into a case of full blown obsession (sound familiar, anyone?), and he- into an outright genuine advocate. Curtis was a true American success story whose enduring artistic legacy was completely reliant on the precipitous decline and virtual demise of an entire race's way of life. And unlike so many of the viewers of his work, he became increasingly cognizant of that fact as he struggled to continue documenting their vanishing, centuries old culture(s) using the available technology of the day, including: language and music on wax cylinder, movie footage of customs and myths, and the plethora of still images which he would show in galleries, exquisitely bound books, and in concert halls with full orchestras and tinted slides projected by "magic lanterns."  .

Again, while somewhat plodding and tedious (at least for me), what helped retain my interest throughout Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher were the small human and historical details full of the irony that speak volumes in any era. Of these I will report in future posts...


MyVintageCameras said...

What a dapper guy. I'd never seen a photo of him. Glad he turned from exploitation to advocacy. It means we can all find redemption.

mudhouse said...

"Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher"

Curtis has long been one of my photographic heros. Thanks for the heads-up, Stan. I just ordered a copy.

Blake Andrews said...

Great book. Brief reactions here: