counter create hit Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

How a lone man's epic obsession led to one of America's greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history -- and the driven, brilliant man who made them. Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovi How a lone man's epic obsession led to one of America's greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history -- and the driven, brilliant man who made them. Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared. An Indiana Jones with a camera, Curtis spent the next three decades traveling from the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Acoma on a high mesa in New Mexico to the Salish in the rugged Northwest rain forest, documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took tremendous perseverance - ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian. His most powerful backer was Theodore Roosevelt, and his patron was J. P. Morgan. Despite the friends in high places, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis photogravures bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary. In the end he fulfilled his promise: He made the Indians live forever.


Compare

How a lone man's epic obsession led to one of America's greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history -- and the driven, brilliant man who made them. Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovi How a lone man's epic obsession led to one of America's greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history -- and the driven, brilliant man who made them. Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared. An Indiana Jones with a camera, Curtis spent the next three decades traveling from the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Acoma on a high mesa in New Mexico to the Salish in the rugged Northwest rain forest, documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took tremendous perseverance - ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian. His most powerful backer was Theodore Roosevelt, and his patron was J. P. Morgan. Despite the friends in high places, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis photogravures bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary. In the end he fulfilled his promise: He made the Indians live forever.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    One of the highlights of growing up in the Chicago area is all of the city’s museums. As a history enthusiast from an early age, I preferred trips to the Field Museum of Natural History. An interactive part of museum trips that I always enjoyed was the Pawnee Earth Lodge, a full sized tipi that allowed visitors to experience what Native American life was like. The lodge was the centerpiece of rooms of Native American artifacts and pictures so that the original inhabitants of North America would One of the highlights of growing up in the Chicago area is all of the city’s museums. As a history enthusiast from an early age, I preferred trips to the Field Museum of Natural History. An interactive part of museum trips that I always enjoyed was the Pawnee Earth Lodge, a full sized tipi that allowed visitors to experience what Native American life was like. The lodge was the centerpiece of rooms of Native American artifacts and pictures so that the original inhabitants of North America would not be forgotten. Most likely, many of the photographs displayed in the exhibit had been taken by Edward Curtis, a premier photographer and documenter of Native American life in the first half of the 20th century. Until I chose to read Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher as part of a buddy read in the nonfiction book group here on goodreads, Curtis was unknown to me, and author Timothy Egan brings his epic life to light. Edward Sheriff Curtis was born on February 18, 1868 near Whitewater, Wisconsin, the second of four children born to his parents James and Ella. His father had fought in the civil war and returned tired and unable to provide for his family. With the west, railroads, and an outdoor life of logging beckoning, the family made their way toward Washington state. By the time Edward was fourteen, he was the primary provider for his family, catching clams and mussels, logging, and taking on any odd job that would assist his family. He felt at one with the outdoors and life on the family’s homestead across the Puget Sound from the fledgling city of Seattle. Photography had not been on Curtis’ radar until he fell ill in his late teens, and during his convalescence needed a means to support his family. Immediately, viewers of his photos could sense that a Curtis photograph captured the essence of its subject, and, Edward along with his new wife Clara moved across the Sound to establish the first Curtis Studio in Seattle. With the growing Northwestern city as his base, Curtis would rise to prominence with a chance encounter with two notable Americans. While hiking Seattle’s Mount Rainier, Curtis helped to rescue Bird Grinnell and C.S. Merriam, two men with connections on the east coast, but more importantly that shared Curtis’ passion for adventures and the outdoors. Curtis invited the two outdoorsmen to his studio, and they subsequently invited him to sail on a voyage to Alaska in the summer of 1899 as the photographer. In what was to be the first of many expeditions in his life that would inevitably alienate his family, Curtis said goodbye to Clara and his two small children and headed north, hobnobbing with a who’s who of American conservationists. Bird Grinnell exposed Curtis to Native American life, and the photographer was instantly smitten. Almost instantaneously documenting and preserving Native American life before it had been tainted by the white man became Curtis’ life passion at the expense of his livelihood, his family, and all but a few close friends. The North American Indian, rather than Curtis photography, became his life passion. With Bird Grinnell, Curtis lived among the Plains Indians for many a summer. Through Grinnell, Curtis met and befriended many prominent Americans including Gifford Pinchot and President Theodore Roosevelt. The President found in Curtis a kindred spirit who enjoyed life in the outdoors and even wrote an introduction to the first volume of The North American Indian. Yet, what Roosevelt lacked were connections, having alienated the wealthy when he abolished monopolies as unconstitutional. Needing a patron to finance his life project at an unheard fee of $15,000 a year over five years, Curtis turned to John Pierpont Morgan of the House of Morgan. The scion appreciated Curtis’ flair for adventure and his not give attitude and agreed to finance the project. The lifelong agreement with Morgan would eventually find Curtis destitute and divorced from a wife who once shared his passion for adventure but would enable him to live out his dream of photographing Native Americans in their natural settings. Timothy Egan brings Edward Curtis and his Indian Jones type life to life. Whether it was camping in the Canyon de Chelly with the Havasupai or rafting down the Colombia River in search of the few remaining native people of the region, Curtis could never say no to an adventure. Over the course of thirty years and at great personal expense to himself both financially and personally, Curtis spent more time with Native Americans than he did at home. He befriended icons as Chief Joseph and Geronimo, participated in Hopi Snake Dances and potlatches, and took over 100,000 photographs of Native Americans and Eskimos over the course of a lifetime. Resulting was the twenty volume North American Indian, yet the price and ensuing depression of the 1930s resulted in few copies being sold and Curtis being dependent on his daughter and her husband just to make ends meet. The few friends he had eventually left to pursue other financially sound projects, yet Professor Edward Meany of the University of Washington in Seattle maintained a correspondence with Curtis for the rest of their lives, one of the few to do so. As a result, the University of Washington houses one of the largest Curtis collections today. Edward Curtis passed away in 1952. Living most of his life among Native people, he did not experience as much change in society as one who would have stayed sedentary. Yet, Curtis played a key role in the early motion picture industry, earning a credit in a few of Cecil B. DeMille’s films. Today most copies of the North American Indian are housed in notable places in museums as during the 1970s interest in Native American culture made a comeback. As Egan notes, Curtis was ahead of his time. Egan presents a balanced depiction of Curtis, a Renaissance man who had character flaws and even staged some of his photographs to present natives in their native dress rather than modern clothes. Yet, it can not be denied that Edward Curtis photographs were industry altering and his work with the native Americans, epic. Timothy Egan has exposed many including myself to this magnificent man, and I have a feeling that this is just the first of Egan’s books that I will experience. 4.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    If only I had read Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis before my trip to Seattle this past June. The trip was wonderful but this book would have greatly enhanced the trip. There were many places I missed not knowing they existed. The$19 million dollar, 23,000 square foot cultural center of the Tulalip Indians would have been a place to visit. My road trip to Mount Ranier's Paradise would have been more meaningful. Hopefully, I'll visit this If only I had read Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis before my trip to Seattle this past June. The trip was wonderful but this book would have greatly enhanced the trip. There were many places I missed not knowing they existed. The$19 million dollar, 23,000 square foot cultural center of the Tulalip Indians would have been a place to visit. My road trip to Mount Ranier's Paradise would have been more meaningful. Hopefully, I'll visit this area again. If you don't have time to read the long version of my comments, suffice it to say I loved this book and highly recommend it. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis was such an interesting read for me on many levels. There's the history of Seattle, the culture of its American Indian Tribes, the beauty of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, the lure of the west of long ago. What makes this book shine is the story of the Shadow Catcher himself, Edward Curtis, a brilliant photographer, a man with a challenge that would haunt his soul and become the meaning and also the obsession of his life. His dream to record through images and word, a twenty volume set detailing the dying rituals, stories and culture of The North American Indian. Timothy Egan excellently takes us on Curtis's three decade journey starting with his captivation at age 12 with his father's Civil War lens, an accident at age 22 that left him confined to bed for a year, his fascination with a 14x17 view camera which could hold "a slice of life on a a large-format glass-plate negative with such clarity it made people gasp". These are the beginnings of his life-long obsession with capturing what others could not. After Egan sets the big idea,in the year 1900 Curtis's story unfolds in chapters of time almost like the photograph stills he took. In 1900 Curtis boards The Great Northern Railroad to Indian land long forgotten by Americans. He lands in Browning, Montana, the land of the Blackfeet Nation and here the first step is taken, the first sketches, writings and photos. His plan to photograph all intact Indian communities left in North America, to capture the essence of their lives before that essence disappeared. Egan ends each chapter with a few images that are relevant to the text. These are stunning but left me wanting for more. Much to think about in these pages. I've read other books that present the American Indian viewpoint on broken treaties and loss of their lands but the images here bring it home, sad and sorrowful, yet proud, strong and hopeful too. I was troubled, yet impressed by the persistence of Curtis's life long ambition to his project. I was amazed that a man who was once renowned, who was invited to photograph Theodore Roosevelt's children, who then became a friend and often guest of the President, whose dream was funded by "the lion of Wall Street", J.P. Morgan, who married a beautiful, smart woman, Clara, who bore him four children and was initially behind him; this same man several decades later died penniless, virtually alone, with his life's work unappreciated. He never knew how important his accomplishments would be. Was it all worth it in the end? In addition to Roosevelt and Morgan, Curtis 's life crossed with so many other colorful and interesting people. Belle Greener, the woman hired to oversee Morgan's library, journalist William E. Myers who wrote much of the copy for the Indian volumes, Frederick Hodge, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian, Edmond S. Meany, history professor, botanist who helped photograph the Sioux. His closest friend, Alexander Upshaw, a Crow Indian spent years roaming the countryside helping Curtis in his research. Upshaw died in an icy jail cell reportedly from pneumonia after a drinking binge, devastating Curtis. The Crow nation felt Upshaw was murdered, severely beaten by a group of white men after an argument and then dragged off to jail where he succumbed to his injuries. In 1927 Curtis and his daughter Beth journey to Nome, traveling the 2,350 miles by sea. Curtis described Nome as "a dump. Once the largest city in Alaska with a population of fifteen thousand, it now had only a few hundred tired souls in what he describes as "a hand-me-down town" The Alaskan Eskimo was the subject of the last of the twenty volumes, the culmination of the dream. Again, at what price? Edward Curtis could have been a fine portrait photographer and wealthy man but at what cost to his own plan, his dream, his desires. There are many wonderful websites where you can view his photographs, and find further information about The North American Indian" I would suggest Northern University Digital Library Collection-Edward S. Curtis's North American Indian.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    This was a long-overdue Netgalley read – thanks to them. Once upon a time (in the late 1800's), a young man discovered the emerging art form of photography. And he discovered that he was good at it. And he began to make a living at it – a very good living, until he was the premiere portrait photographer of the also-emerging city of Seattle. And then one day he met a princess on the beach, and he fell in love. He didn't fall in love with the princess, though. The young man was (of course) Edwa This was a long-overdue Netgalley read – thanks to them. Once upon a time (in the late 1800's), a young man discovered the emerging art form of photography. And he discovered that he was good at it. And he began to make a living at it – a very good living, until he was the premiere portrait photographer of the also-emerging city of Seattle. And then one day he met a princess on the beach, and he fell in love. He didn't fall in love with the princess, though. The young man was (of course) Edward Curtis, who is a textbook example of American Dream/self-made man/rags to riches, the kind of success story that … I don't know, can that kind of thing still happen? And the princess was Princess Angeline, aged daughter of Chief Seattle of the exiled or possibly extinct Duwamish, who lived in a shack and scavenged on the beach. Indians had been forbidden to live in Seattle, but she ignored the law, and the law ignored her, and on she lingered. And in the sight of her gathering mussels on the beach one day, Edward Curtis saw something remarkable, and photographed it. And then brought her to his studio and took her portrait. And upon this intersection with her life he began to realize that she was representative of something remarkable, and terrible: the driving out of native Indian people from the lands they had inhabited from time immemorial. He realized that he was there at the very moment before the Indians and the many and varied cultures they had built up over centuries … vanished. Between "civilized" expansion and missionary zeal not only the physical but the cultural existence of every tribe was being obliterated. Curtis's realization became an interest, and the interest became a fascination, and the fascination became an obsession, and for the next quarter century the obsession would send him throughout the country racing the tide of progress to find the remnants of each tribe, to talk to elders, and to make a record of what was disappearing. The result of and also the purpose for this project was supposed to be a multi-volume masterwork of biography, ethnology, anthropology, and – perhaps most prominently – photography, each volume of The North American Indian concentrating on a small number of tribes, or just one, depending on how much access he could gain and how much information he could glean – which depended on how much of each tribe still survived. "Supposed to be" – because nothing, especially art and especially dreams, is ever that simple. It was an expensive proposition to travel to every tribe (and ghost of a tribe) and make the extensive record he insisted upon: not simply photographs (though Curtis's photos were never simple; his preferred method of developing was the most deluxe and most expensive, and when he couldn't do that he did the second most), but audio recordings and, when he met up with the technology, film – and while Curtis had long since been able to charge top dollar for his society portraits, it didn't take long for his personal finances to begin to suffer. In a way, this was a very familiar story. An artist with a big, spectacular, life-changing, world-changing idea can't afford its execution on his own, and everyone he turns to for assistance has the same reaction: "What a great project! Why, it will be a boon to humanity. I hope you get lots of donations for it. You let me know how that goes. Bye now." I loved this book. The personalities involved in the Project were many and varied – from Teddy Roosevelt to Chief Joseph, from J.P. Morgan to Libbie Custer – and so were their motivations. The overweening belief that one's way of life and of worship is simply better than anyone else's, driving armies of spiritual and bureaucratic missionaries to stomp the native cultures into something more resembling themselves (only inferior, of course, because they were never sufficiently like). The money men who had made all their profits by always looking for substantial returns, unable to divorce even a philanthropic and priceless gesture from the need to see it produce revenue. The heads buried so deep in the sand of false, but pretty, history that any attempt to uncover a real story is fought against, viciously. The bitterness of former partners left behind to pick up slack and keep the home fires burning and all that, with little to show for it. The obsession, blind to everything else, overwhelming everything else, from familial affection to self-preservation. It's all here, and more besides, skilfully woven together and picked apart in utterly readable, often chatty (I loved that the Sioux are described as "scary good at bloodletting"), sometimes poetic prose. If nothing else, I'm deeply appreciative of having been introduced to Curtis's photographs. The Kindle edition I read was lacking there – many of the referenced photos are included in the book, but not all of those were visible to me as I read; given a choice, I would prefer this book in paper form, to allow for quicker and easier access to the images while reading. (Meanwhile, I've begun collecting them on Pinterest.) From a perspective of a hundred years later, it all makes so much more sense, all seems so much more vital than it must have to Curtis's wife. She was the one who suffered from his obsession – stuck at home with a growing family of small children, coping with her husband's oft-abandoned portrait studio and the family feud left in Edward's wake and – harshest of all – the steady draining away of the family's money into funding The Project. But the view from here is so different. From here, Curtis is utterly vindicated. His work was important enough to warrant the suffering. His is in many cases the only such preservation done – there are several stories of tribes many years after, when all of the elders were gone and no one was left to remember the old ways which had suddenly become important again, turning to Curtis's work and through it being able to resurrect the ways they were so long forbidden. I think he'd be pleased.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Page 322 (my book) The Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday wrote in “Sacred Legacy” a book of Curtis pictures “I felt that I was looking into a memory of my blood. Here was a moment lost in time, a moment I had known only in my imagination...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.” Canyon de Shelley Three Chiefs Red Cloud This is a great biography of truly one of th Page 322 (my book) The Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday wrote in “Sacred Legacy” a book of Curtis pictures “I felt that I was looking into a memory of my blood. Here was a moment lost in time, a moment I had known only in my imagination...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.” Canyon de Shelley Three Chiefs Red Cloud This is a great biography of truly one of the most enterprising of Americans. Edward Curtis set out – possessed really – in the early 1900’s to capture in photographs what was left of the traditional life of the American Indian. This quest lasted his entire life. He was an intrepid man who had only a grade school education– a real self-sustainer and true outdoorsman. He criss-crossed the continent numerous times, living in the American Southwest (with the Navajo, Hopi, Apache...) and in the Great Plains (Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho...). Curtis lived with these tribes for months at a time and would frequently revisit. He also travelled up the west coast of British Columbia to photograph and film the Kwakiutl tribe and then up north to Alaska for the Inuit people. He knew that the Indian tribes at this stage were a non-renewable resource and he aimed as much as possible to forever imprint their traditional way of life in his photos. But not only that, he along with his associates, recorded their vocabulary, their songs and their way of life. He did all this without a salary. He used grants from the millionaire J. Pierpont Morgan solely for expenses. By the 1920’s Curtis was broke, his marriage was a shambles – his wife divorced him – she essentially raised their three children alone and was constantly borrowing money from friends and relatives. I really don’t know how she put with him for so long – Curtis was dedicated to his cause and everything else was secondary. We get a real feel in this biography of who Curtis was and how he manoeuvred through so many different worlds – from New York art collectors to remote Indian tribes scattered over the continent. Curtis died in Los Angeles in 1952 a forgotten man. But today his more than 40,000 photographs of Indians, put into twenty volumes during his life-time, are a masterpiece of a way of life that is forever gone. Page 322 Beyond the discussions of whether the bulk of his work is documentary or art or some combination, his best [photographs] defy categories and comment with the heart. As an additional note: there are photos in this book but the best way to appreciate it is to have one of the large volumes of Curtis photographs such as

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Cooper

    If there were any justice, this month's Indian-themed Johnny Depp movie would not be "The Lone Ranger" but the Edward Curtis story — I don't know another actor who could convincingly handle both the charisma and dash of the young Curtis and the tragedy of his later years, when the weight of his accomplishment had broken everything else in his life, and yet even his accomplishment had been largely forgotten. In short, Curtis set out, almost by himself, to document in photographs every surviving N If there were any justice, this month's Indian-themed Johnny Depp movie would not be "The Lone Ranger" but the Edward Curtis story — I don't know another actor who could convincingly handle both the charisma and dash of the young Curtis and the tragedy of his later years, when the weight of his accomplishment had broken everything else in his life, and yet even his accomplishment had been largely forgotten. In short, Curtis set out, almost by himself, to document in photographs every surviving North American tribe, and to publish his work in a serious ethnographic work that would also represent a new pinnacle of the publisher's art. How he did this is the story of this book. The first chapter, of how the young studio photographer Curtis took the now-iconic picture of Princess Angeline, the elderly granddaughter of Chief Seattle who lived as a bag lady in his namesake city, is worth the price of the book: short, poetic and powerful. Chapter 10, in which Curtis visits the Little Bighorn with three former scouts who were at the battle and discovers that everything everybody knew about the tragedy was wrong, is nearly as impressive. Along the way there are great vignettes involving Curtis's friend Teddy Roosevelt, his patron J.P. Morgan, and his invaluable friend and guide Alexander Upshaw, the Native American who got Curtis closer to the tribes than he could have hoped to have gotten by himself. Upshaw's story is the Indian story in a nutshell. Curtis's story is rich with surprise, adventure, and heartbreak, and Egan's prose is poetic and just. This is the best book I've read in the past year.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I'm only about halfway through, but I don't need to finish before giving it five stars. Timothy Egan is to books as Ken Burns is to television -- a master at bringing history and its players to life. But I'm kicking myself. I lived in Seattle for many years -- Edward Curtis's home base. I'll bet there were plenty of times I could have seen exhibitions of his photographs -- there's probably a permanent collection in one of Seattle's museums -- but I never sought him out. This book makes me long fo I'm only about halfway through, but I don't need to finish before giving it five stars. Timothy Egan is to books as Ken Burns is to television -- a master at bringing history and its players to life. But I'm kicking myself. I lived in Seattle for many years -- Edward Curtis's home base. I'll bet there were plenty of times I could have seen exhibitions of his photographs -- there's probably a permanent collection in one of Seattle's museums -- but I never sought him out. This book makes me long for the days when ordinary people tried to do extraordinary things. In Curtis's case, it was recognizing that a way of life was passing, and preserving something of that way of life. This book would be appreciated by anyone interested in Native Americans, but also for fans of early photography, travel and adventure, and for learning about the movers and shakers in areas of education, business, politics, and journalism in the early 20th century. It's nothing less than a marvel. I'm reading an ARC (supplied by Amazon's Vine program) but will be buying the hardcover. The ARC doesn't include all of the photos that will be in the final version. The pictures are gorgeous and I want to see all of them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Kudos to Egan for an utterly fascinating piece of historical research. I'm sorry it took me so long to (finally) get around to reading this. WHAT A STORY! What a life! What a legacy! Wow. If you were ever looking for a (not surprisingly, tragic) case study on the level of commitment (or obsession) of a great artist, this one is tough to beat. While I was primarily drawn to the book because of photography angle, the book also is a potent, poignant reminder of how horrific the nation's history is w Kudos to Egan for an utterly fascinating piece of historical research. I'm sorry it took me so long to (finally) get around to reading this. WHAT A STORY! What a life! What a legacy! Wow. If you were ever looking for a (not surprisingly, tragic) case study on the level of commitment (or obsession) of a great artist, this one is tough to beat. While I was primarily drawn to the book because of photography angle, the book also is a potent, poignant reminder of how horrific the nation's history is with regard to the displacement, abuse, suppression, and, all-too-often extermination of Native American tribes, communities, religions, practices, cultures, etc. (And, sure, while much of this was government policy, the book reminds us how frequently abusive behavior was conducted in the lord's name, by (one would hope) well-intentioned and well-meaning missionaries.) The story is also jam packed with fascinating nuggets and cameos of people (Presidents, titans of industry, great film-makers), places (geez, Curtis covered some ground), and period pieces (it's incredible how, for example, Seattle has changed in what is, objectively and relatively, a short period of time). And the photographs, oh my!!! They are splendid, gorgeous, sublime, exquisite, remarkable, unique, memorable, impressive, iconic, .... and, well, you name it.... Having said that, I wish there had been more of them, although I'm sure that cost/rights were an issue. Also, I fear I'm not the only photographer (amateur, of course) who was disappointed by how little of the actual technique and technology was discussed. This is not to say that Egan doesn't discuss any of Curtis' equipment or dark room practices - he does touch on these from time. But, in fairness to the author, that's not really what the story is about. I've only read a couple of Egan's books and, on a positive note, I tend to be interested (nay, fascinated) by the things that he researches. On a less positive note, I (personally) don't love his writing, and, I admit, my attention waned throughout the book, and I enjoyed it most in relatively small doses (so the relatively short chapters helped). Frankly, my guess is that I find his prose less entertaining because Egan is more disciplined (and possibly even more professional) than some of the "new new journalists" whose "history" reads more like best selling fiction. (Not to beat the poor, expired horse to death, but, for example, I find Egan a bit more dry than, say, Erik Larson, Hampton Sides, Jon Krakaur, or ... not to go too far afield, Michael Lewis).... But there's no question Egan is a real pro, and you need look no further than the book's back matter (including the chapter notes and the index, which are incredibly helpful and impressive) to appreciate his level of effort. Ultimately, this is an incredible and informative history - not only a biography of an iconic photographer - but of the decline of Native American tribes and traditions. It's also a heart-breaking story of a great visionary's commitment to his art, pursued (and to a large extent, achieved) at enormous cost to himself and his family. A story well worth reading. Supplemental note: the Smithsonian Institution (referenced periodically throughout the book), has an extensive online exhibit on Curtis, available at http://www.sil.si.edu/Exhibitions/Cur... - it appears to have been created before this book was published, and it's a bit clunky, but it's still a nice supplement to the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Saleh MoonWalker

    Onvan : Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis - Nevisande : Timothy Egan - ISBN : 618969020 - ISBN13 : 9780618969029 - Dar 370 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2011

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    3.5 stars - It was really good. While the writing was a bit too journalistic and dry in style, the story of Edward Curtis' life, sacrifices and accomplishments was wonderful. Learning more about Seattle's history, and the differences among various Native American tribes was also very interesting. Above all else, what made this book was the inclusion of Curtis' photography, with the pictures packing an emotional punch and reminder of the inconceivable iniquities the natives suffered. All 20 volume 3.5 stars - It was really good. While the writing was a bit too journalistic and dry in style, the story of Edward Curtis' life, sacrifices and accomplishments was wonderful. Learning more about Seattle's history, and the differences among various Native American tribes was also very interesting. Above all else, what made this book was the inclusion of Curtis' photography, with the pictures packing an emotional punch and reminder of the inconceivable iniquities the natives suffered. All 20 volumes of Edward Curtis' masterpiece, The North American Indian can be viewed online through NWU library at this site: http://curtis.library.northwestern.ed... ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: ....Government agents, the frontline enforcers of assimilation, the faces of a conqueror who made sure no sensible policy would ever be practiced. First Sentence: The last Indian of Seattle lived in a shack down among the greased piers and coal bunkers of the new city, on what was then called West Street, her hovel in the grip of Puget Sound, off plumb in a rise above the tidal flats.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I'm rarely ashamed to admit ignorance, because shame gets in the way of learning. My ignorance about this,that, or the other might surprise me, though; and my ignorance about Edward Curtis is somewhat jaw-dropping. I thought he was a period photographer who snapped some iconic Native American portraits and scenes that have survived as postcards, and that was that. Boy, was I wrong! Edward Curtis, successful portrait photographer of the Seattle upper-classes, met and photographed, Princess Angelin I'm rarely ashamed to admit ignorance, because shame gets in the way of learning. My ignorance about this,that, or the other might surprise me, though; and my ignorance about Edward Curtis is somewhat jaw-dropping. I thought he was a period photographer who snapped some iconic Native American portraits and scenes that have survived as postcards, and that was that. Boy, was I wrong! Edward Curtis, successful portrait photographer of the Seattle upper-classes, met and photographed, Princess Angeline, the surviving daughter of Chief Sealth, living on the tide flats below Pioneer Square. (For you Seattlites, Angeline Street on the South End was named after the Princess.) From that point on, Curtis was possessed of the grand vision of documenting the North American Indian, and he spent the next thirty years doing just that. But Curtis was not just a photographer. His 20 volume magnum opus not only contains 1500 photos, but is also the most complete ethnographic study of American Indians in existence. It contains alphabets, pronunciation guides, song transcriptions, histories, cosmologies - and photos. It was printed with the best inks, on the best papers, using the most advanced and artistic photo techniques, went for $3,500 per set (in early 20th century money,) stretches out for five feet on a book shelf, and was financed by J.P. Morgan and sons to the tune of $50M in today's money. Curtis walked vast areas of the United States( NW, SW, Great Plains) more than once, sometimes with a full crew of translators, and assistants, sometimes alone; spent most of his life sleeping out of doors; worked 16 hour days (at home or in the field - he appreciated the long daylight of the NW) destroyed his marriage; alienated his brother Ashahel (yes, that stop on I-90;) wrote, directed, and produced a movie, pioneered photographic techniques, traveled a show biz circuit with a huge multi-media show, never, in thirty years, took a penny in salary, and died in debt - a pauper. It was indeed an "epic life," and in the living of it Edward Curtis became a chronicler of the American West, an iconoclast of the precious myths that supported genocide, and a champion of the lost cause of native rights. Artist, ethnographer, adventurer, crusader - a life in full. Timothy Egan is a terrific story teller, and we North Westerners owe him a lot of gratitude for writing so well about our region. Now we owe him for opening up the story of Edward Curtis, and for giving us a look at the tribes Curtis devoted his life to. I'm a denizen of both the North and Southwest, and this book added to my knowledge and love of both regions. There are a few stylistic blips in the telling (e.g. Curtis gets upset, and the author states: He wasn't about to take that kind of crap,) but they only pop up once or twice, and aside from a head shake on my part didn't interrupt the story.) Highly, highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Magill

    This rating is a case for me of a worthy book that simply did not come alive to me; I never felt drawn into the narrative. That may be more a matter of style preferences than writing quality; it is not a reflection of the readability or subject matter. I found that the energy of the narrative seemed more alive and energetic with quoted excerpts from letters and books, than with: "When he stared at the picture of Chief Joseph - those eyes!- he could feel a bit of the ache from the old man's heart This rating is a case for me of a worthy book that simply did not come alive to me; I never felt drawn into the narrative. That may be more a matter of style preferences than writing quality; it is not a reflection of the readability or subject matter. I found that the energy of the narrative seemed more alive and energetic with quoted excerpts from letters and books, than with: "When he stared at the picture of Chief Joseph - those eyes!- he could feel a bit of the ache from the old man's heart." p.197. That being said, this book tells the story of the passion of Edward S. Curtis and the project that claimed almost his entire life, to the detriment of much else, and to very little recognition or acclaim in the latter part of his life. And, given the quality of the work and its significance, deserves commemoration. I was introduced to Curtis' work in the early 2000s and have a couple of books of photos and a dvd recreation of his 1911-12 show "The Indian Picture Opera". What astonished me was that having lived on two separate occasions in the Pacific Northwest and in and out of Seattle at various times, I have never seen or heard of any venue promoting his work (Shouldn't there be something, somewhere, on tripadvisor? Bruce Lee's grave is #23 in popularity in Seattle! Flury and Co. in Pioneer Square, has a place holder and nothing else.) WTH? Read the book if you have any interest whatsoever in your native peoples or appreciation for the amazing work of Curtis.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sue K H

    This is a fast paced and well written story about the amazing Edward Curtis. Curtis had a lofty goal to document the lives of the many different tribes of Native North American Indians before their customs, language and race became extinct or forgotten due to forced assimilation. This book is rich with period details and it documents the American dream story of a man with a sixth grade education who becomes a self taught and groundbreaking expert in mountain climbing, photography, anthropology, This is a fast paced and well written story about the amazing Edward Curtis. Curtis had a lofty goal to document the lives of the many different tribes of Native North American Indians before their customs, language and race became extinct or forgotten due to forced assimilation. This book is rich with period details and it documents the American dream story of a man with a sixth grade education who becomes a self taught and groundbreaking expert in mountain climbing, photography, anthropology, History, Documentary film, and more. Egan's writing will make you feel the thrills of Curtis's achievements and the agony of his many setbacks in pursuit of his grand obsession. There were times when I felt out of breath just reading about what he was doing! Curtis said he was doing the work of 50 men, but it was more like the work of hundreds. His genius and work ethic impressed many from the President, to J.P. Morgan, to countless experts in the arts and sciences around the world. He made an impression on me also. Not everything he did was perfect and he had some character flaws like any human. Egan does a great job giving a balanced picture of the man. The only problem might be in the title of the book. It should be "The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs and Works of Edward Curtis". His photographs were enough to make him great in and of themselves, but he did so much more than that.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gary Brecht

    Like the ponies ridden by North America’s plains Indians, this story gallops alongside its doomed target, relentless until it has taken its last breath. Author Timothy Egan takes us on that hunt, examining the life of Edward S. Curtis, not only to admire his work, but also to cast a critical eye to his shortcomings as a father, husband and businessman. It is a tale much too familiar…an artist so obsessed with his work that he neglects those around him who love him; an artist whose body of work, t Like the ponies ridden by North America’s plains Indians, this story gallops alongside its doomed target, relentless until it has taken its last breath. Author Timothy Egan takes us on that hunt, examining the life of Edward S. Curtis, not only to admire his work, but also to cast a critical eye to his shortcomings as a father, husband and businessman. It is a tale much too familiar…an artist so obsessed with his work that he neglects those around him who love him; an artist whose body of work, though at times loudly praised, fails to sustain him so that he dies destitute and ostensibly unremembered. Magnificent photos of native Americans in their habitat, recordings of their songs and examples of their dying languages, became the raison d’être for Edward Curtis as he set out on his project to capture the essences of tribes vanishing at the turn of the 20th century. In his quest he befriended a number of prominent conservationists, a president, legendary Indian chiefs, and a world-renowned financier. Yet none of these associations could save him from eventual insolvency and humiliation. Fortunately, Edward Curtis’s story is retold here with a smattering of iconic photos and a great deal of empathy. As the subtitle of this book indicates, Edward Curtis’s life was undoubtedly one of “epic” proportions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    A very impressive biography. Curtis is largely forgotten today, but Egan brings his life long work back from the dead with “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.” Well written and Egan’s passion for Curtis’ work is obvious. What a fascinating life he lived too: spending months at a time with the natives while rubbing shoulders with Presidents and business tycoons. He crossed the continent over 100 times. Tireless energy. Warning: might make your life feel endlessly dull in comparison. Highly recom A very impressive biography. Curtis is largely forgotten today, but Egan brings his life long work back from the dead with “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.” Well written and Egan’s passion for Curtis’ work is obvious. What a fascinating life he lived too: spending months at a time with the natives while rubbing shoulders with Presidents and business tycoons. He crossed the continent over 100 times. Tireless energy. Warning: might make your life feel endlessly dull in comparison. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda Marshall

    Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan, a powerful biography of Edward Curtis, is an epic, essential, invaluable book in itself, being an important addition, not only to North American history, but to world history by making an underlying case for every culture’s sovereignty and preservation. Thank you, Mr. Egan, for your time, exhaustive research, effort and priceless writing style to bring Edward Curtis’s life to life in a compelling, insightful page turner for all readers, to beco Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan, a powerful biography of Edward Curtis, is an epic, essential, invaluable book in itself, being an important addition, not only to North American history, but to world history by making an underlying case for every culture’s sovereignty and preservation. Thank you, Mr. Egan, for your time, exhaustive research, effort and priceless writing style to bring Edward Curtis’s life to life in a compelling, insightful page turner for all readers, to become a permanent book in personal libraries. Thank you, Edward Curtis, for your lifelong obsession contributing your epic works, recording not only tribal photographs, but audio language, music, and ceremonies/religions so they will never be lost. Curtis and Egan, two epic men each bringing deserved recognition to one another with their works; two passionate advocates for all tribes of humanity. Do not miss this remarkable book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    Why do some of humanity's greatest artists go through life in near poverty conditions, often making others wealthy, followed by a dramatic rise in the value of their works after their deaths? Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan is another of these all to familiar stories about one man's epic obsession with photographing North American Indians. Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the story of Edward Curtis' goal, startin Why do some of humanity's greatest artists go through life in near poverty conditions, often making others wealthy, followed by a dramatic rise in the value of their works after their deaths? Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan is another of these all to familiar stories about one man's epic obsession with photographing North American Indians. Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the story of Edward Curtis' goal, starting in 1900 at age 32, photograph Native Americans to record their look, culture, and even languages before they would be lost to history forever. Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He was a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, the leading thinkers of his time. The result was an expansive 20-volume set of the best representation of our disappearing Native Americans that took him 30 years to complete. In addition to the spectacular photographs using state-of-the-art (expensive) techniques but he also made audio recordings that are even used by remaining tribal members of today to relearn their customs and languages. Eventually he shot more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process he developed the most definitive archive of the North American Indian. He was backed by no less than Theodore Roosevelt, and had J. P. Morgan as his patron and financer. Despite these connections and funding, he was always broke due in part to the expensive materials and equipment to make the resultant spectacular photos. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. It went virtually unnoticed with America entering the Great Depression and are now only found in private collections and museums and, in rare occurrences they become available they bring high prices at auction. Many examples of his work can be found on line today but reading this book brings his struggle to preserve a way of life by getting to know the various tribes by spending time with them and sometimes living among them for a time and gaining their trust and even friendship. Fascinating true story with the sad ending of him dying broke without even ownership rights to his life's work!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bobby D

    I do want to say straight off that his is an absolutely marvelous book and that no matter what you think you know of Edward Curtis and his famous Indian photographs you will be astounded to learn of the adventure that was his life. One great book! Edward Curtis’s life was one of obsession. He worked for no material reward and yet created twenty volumes entitled THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN which was lost and discarded by history only to have a complete set sell in 2010 for $1.8 million dollars. He l I do want to say straight off that his is an absolutely marvelous book and that no matter what you think you know of Edward Curtis and his famous Indian photographs you will be astounded to learn of the adventure that was his life. One great book! Edward Curtis’s life was one of obsession. He worked for no material reward and yet created twenty volumes entitled THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN which was lost and discarded by history only to have a complete set sell in 2010 for $1.8 million dollars. He lost his marriage and his bother to un-repairable damaged relationships. His wife had him thrown in jail. His brother never spoke to him for 30 plus years. And yet Edward Curtis gave up the chance to be a highly successful Seattle portrait photographer to take on his life’s work to document traditional Indian culture tribe by tribe from Texas to Alaska. In the end he left some 40,000 photographs in addition to whole dictionaries of translations of languages, songs, and music. It is a sad, amazing, obsessive life and as with all artists brought to completion by sheer will power. Egan has a line at the end of the book that seems most interesting when it comes to the legacy of our great American photographers. “It was a national curse, it seemed once again, to take as a life task the challenge of trying to capture in illustrated form a significant part of the American story The Indian painter George Catlin had died broke and forgotten. Mathew Brady, the Civil War photographer who gave up his prosperous portrait business to become a pioneer in photojournalism, spent his last days in a dingy rooming house, alone and penniless. Curtis took his final breath in a home not much larger than the tent he used to set up on the floor of Canyon de Chelly.” In Edward Curtis’s life Timothy Egan has found a subject that matches his great story telling. I read Egan’s THE BIG BURN and enjoyed it but never would have thought he would write such a perfect book as this biography. (I read it in just two day. My wife brought it home from the library or I might have missed this one which would have been a real shame. By the way you can find the complete set of Edward Curtis's on line at http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Don Dennis

    Fascinating subject, irritating author. On a subject matter that has the experience of the Native American community at the heart of it, I found it absurd to find the Minnesota Massacre of 1862 described as involving the white settlers vs. "insurgents". In what manner could the local tribal people be considered the "insurgents"? This is a blatant example of a word-smith using the opposite word from what would have been appropriate. The term "insurgent" developed its current media definition durin Fascinating subject, irritating author. On a subject matter that has the experience of the Native American community at the heart of it, I found it absurd to find the Minnesota Massacre of 1862 described as involving the white settlers vs. "insurgents". In what manner could the local tribal people be considered the "insurgents"? This is a blatant example of a word-smith using the opposite word from what would have been appropriate. The term "insurgent" developed its current media definition during the war in Iraq, when the US was still involved in the fighting. After the first several weeks, when Saddam's troops were routed, other fighters came / surged into Iraq to engage in fighting the Americans. These new fighters were correctly referred to at the time as "insurgents". But in the decade since that term has been used for simply any enemy of the US (& the UK) in combat situations. So the Taliban in Afghanistan have constantly been described as "insurgents" even though they are nothing of the kind: they are in their native land. Ironically, it is the American and UK forces who would correctly be described as "insurgents", regardless of the rights and wrongs of what is going on there. It is the Coalition forces that have surged into Afghanistan. But the media in the USA and the UK refer to the Taliban as the "insurgents". Ok, that's not very good use of the language, but we don't hold News journalists to the highest of literary standards. But when a Pulitzer Prize winning author uses the term to describe Native Americans, and the editors let it remain in the book and send it to the printers, then one can see that standards of the use of our language have slipped badly. There are a few other more minor infractions in the body of the book, but this is the one that still irks me, a few months after finishing what is otherwise a pretty good read. Yet I cannot help but feel that Edward Curtis deserves a deeper and better biography than this one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hahn

    What a winner of a book! Language, Prose, Subject Matter, Style - Timothy Egan is a fantastic writer and the subject matter is equally intriguing. Hard to call it a bio - reads like a novel - about an intriguing man and excellent Photographer who dedicated his life to photographing the Indian Culture at the dusk of it's existence. Highly recommend. In my novel The Heart Code, I speak of Curtis as one of my characters loves his work on the Indians and has a wall of his prints. Now to find such de What a winner of a book! Language, Prose, Subject Matter, Style - Timothy Egan is a fantastic writer and the subject matter is equally intriguing. Hard to call it a bio - reads like a novel - about an intriguing man and excellent Photographer who dedicated his life to photographing the Indian Culture at the dusk of it's existence. Highly recommend. In my novel The Heart Code, I speak of Curtis as one of my characters loves his work on the Indians and has a wall of his prints. Now to find such detailed account of the artist's pursuit is fascinating as well as a delicious read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    JW

    Perhaps the most enjoyable biography I've read in a long, long time. I'm still unsure if Curtis' story is one of tragedy. Self taught photographer, ethnographer, anthropologist who gave us a treasure beyond value in his 20 volume "The North American Indian," and died penniless. Okay, so it is tragic, and fascinating, and deeply moving. Too often we don't appreciate greatness when it stands before us. Curtis' work was loudly applauded in its early execution but gradually faded as interest in "Ind Perhaps the most enjoyable biography I've read in a long, long time. I'm still unsure if Curtis' story is one of tragedy. Self taught photographer, ethnographer, anthropologist who gave us a treasure beyond value in his 20 volume "The North American Indian," and died penniless. Okay, so it is tragic, and fascinating, and deeply moving. Too often we don't appreciate greatness when it stands before us. Curtis' work was loudly applauded in its early execution but gradually faded as interest in "Indian stories" fell from public interest.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gloria Piper

    If not for Edward Curtis and his associates, many Native American tribes would have lost their customs and languages. Curtis was a world class photographer in Seattle whose passion was to record American tribes before they vanished. He would not only photograph them but record their customs and languages. He felt a sense of urgency, for already before the turn of the 19th century, the cultures of many tribes were being lost through outside influence and forced assimilation. Curtis, in his search If not for Edward Curtis and his associates, many Native American tribes would have lost their customs and languages. Curtis was a world class photographer in Seattle whose passion was to record American tribes before they vanished. He would not only photograph them but record their customs and languages. He felt a sense of urgency, for already before the turn of the 19th century, the cultures of many tribes were being lost through outside influence and forced assimilation. Curtis, in his search for sponsors of his project, a twenty volume series of The North American Indian, estimated it would take him five years of intimate research to complete the set. Years spent visiting various tribes stretched into thirty, while he worked without pay, fell into deep debt, but could not settle for less than perfection. Here is a fascinating history of Curtis, a charismatic figure, and his struggle to bring to the world the results of a magnificent revelation of Indian life, as it was before the change wrought by the white conqueror. He brings to light the truth of The Little Big Horn fight, the betrayal of the Nez Perce, and other previous mysteries and misconceptions. In one effort to attract attention to his work, he produced a movie of and by the Kwakiutl tribe, In the Land of the War Canoes, originally In the Land of the Head Hunters. Catch it on You Tube or buy it at Amazon. Included in this book are some of the photographs Curtis took, including the well-known picture of Chief Joseph. I was particularly struck by the picture of Mosa (1903) and Belle da Costa Green (probably about the same date.) I came away from this history with the sense that Native American culture was no more primitive than ours. All cultures have their strengths and their weaknesses, and in some ways Native American culture was the stronger.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    What a fascinating, albeit sad, biography of Edward Curtis and ultimately the Native Americans. It’s interesting how he devoted his life to preserving the Native Americans’ history and his fate ended up similar to that of his subjects. I didn’t realize that the iconic pictures I’ve seen of Chief Jospeh and other Native Americans are products of Edward Curtis’ life work. I learned a lot and thought this was the perfect mixture of history and biography. I’d recommend it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deepa

    Stunning, but also heart breaking to read about how Native American populations were decimated, not just by centuries of war and disease, but also by laws designed to kill their way of life, language and culture. Even though Edward Curtis died almost penniless, and without recognition for his phenomenal work documenting the inner lives of Native Americans, it is heartening to see how his legacy is used to revive long forgotten ceremonies and cultural links. Also, kudos to the author for bringing Stunning, but also heart breaking to read about how Native American populations were decimated, not just by centuries of war and disease, but also by laws designed to kill their way of life, language and culture. Even though Edward Curtis died almost penniless, and without recognition for his phenomenal work documenting the inner lives of Native Americans, it is heartening to see how his legacy is used to revive long forgotten ceremonies and cultural links. Also, kudos to the author for bringing these beautiful pictures and remote areas to life.. the book is not just a biography, but also a travelogue. I've added quite a few destinations in Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Alaska to my bucket list.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The small Muskegon Art Museum in Michigan placed their collection of Edward Curtis photographs on exhibit this past summer; and sadly, I never made it to the west shore of the state to see them. They are now ‘resting’ in storage. After reading National Book Award winner Egan’s excellent biography of this amazing photographer, I will not let such an opportunity pass again. Edward Curtis was a self-taught photographer known in Seattle for his polished studio portraits. But when he came upon ‘Prince The small Muskegon Art Museum in Michigan placed their collection of Edward Curtis photographs on exhibit this past summer; and sadly, I never made it to the west shore of the state to see them. They are now ‘resting’ in storage. After reading National Book Award winner Egan’s excellent biography of this amazing photographer, I will not let such an opportunity pass again. Edward Curtis was a self-taught photographer known in Seattle for his polished studio portraits. But when he came upon ‘Princess Angeline’ living in a shack on the shores of Puget Sound, his focus shifted. He was intrigued by this sole surviving child of the Duwamish-Suquamish Chief Seattle. The photographs he took of this octogenarian led to his fascination with Native American tribes and culture. The result was a multi-decade obsession to document all of the intact Native American communities left in North America. Curtis’ 20-volume ‘The North American Indian’ was his stunning accomplishment—consisting of 40,000 photographs, 10,000 recorded songs, 75 language glossaries, and transcriptions of countless myths, rituals and stories. This opus is now regarded as a major cultural achievement contributing to our understanding of Native American tribes. Curtis sacrificed everything to satisfy this obsession. While President Teddy Roosevelt was a strong supporter and financiers like J.P. Morgan funded his many trips into Native American lands, he was often living in financial straits. University anthropologists were generally dismissive of his work because he lacked scholarly credentials. On the other hand, he was in-the-field with translators talking directly with the tribes, while they studied from afar. These were not easy trips to undergo, and Curtis poured everything of himself into them, even experimenting with the first moving picture technologies to capture key tribe dances. Highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    If I had to choose another life for myself, I could do no better or no worse than Edward Curtis photographer who planned and executed a mission to photograph all of the North American Indian tribes before their way of life disappeared forever. He was not rich, he did not have a degree, he had no experience as an Anthropologist, what he did have was a sense of timing, a devotion to this mission in spite of extreme financial and personal challenges. Edward Curtis should have received the Noble Pri If I had to choose another life for myself, I could do no better or no worse than Edward Curtis photographer who planned and executed a mission to photograph all of the North American Indian tribes before their way of life disappeared forever. He was not rich, he did not have a degree, he had no experience as an Anthropologist, what he did have was a sense of timing, a devotion to this mission in spite of extreme financial and personal challenges. Edward Curtis should have received the Noble Prize for his steadfast devotion to the cause of the North American Indian, his understanding of the importance of respect for people not matter where they are from or who they are was amazing. His journeys to achieve his goal were monumentally difficult. He and his crew worked in every kind of weather under every known condition-- to achieve a masterpiece-- the 20 volume North American Indians. Early in his career he was supported by Teddy Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan astounding considering his subject matter may not have been all that popular at the beginning of the 20th century. The book was masterly researched and written by Timothy Egan, each page is a wonderful journey into the heart of a dedicated and yes-- obsessed-- artist who believed beyond mental and human endurance that he MUST finish the project. He lost all for this 30 plus years project--but we-- have gained his masterpieces in the faces, places and stories of the fading and disappearing traditional North American Indian. If you read nothing else-- this is a grand book! Should be required reading for all History, Art, Literature, Anthropology students-- no-- on ALL READING LISTS--period. Five Stars!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    The Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Eternal Photographs of Edward Curtis was an uncorrected e-book manuscript from Net Galley. The e-book galley was full of random capitalization and occasionally a little lacking in narrative coherence, but a totally involving read! What a fascinating life the obsessed Curtis lived in his attempt to document the story of the vanishing cultures of the American Indian, and what a record of photographs and text he left behind! I may have to pu The Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Eternal Photographs of Edward Curtis was an uncorrected e-book manuscript from Net Galley. The e-book galley was full of random capitalization and occasionally a little lacking in narrative coherence, but a totally involving read! What a fascinating life the obsessed Curtis lived in his attempt to document the story of the vanishing cultures of the American Indian, and what a record of photographs and text he left behind! I may have to purchase the completed print version just to get the photographs that the Kindle version mangles. Despite my complaints (and it was a free and uncorrected version), the book tells the haunting story of a man with a project that was, as he was repeatedly told, too large for fifty men, much less the one man and his few devoted friends and assistants, and I read it avidly. What an adventure story, what a consuming passion, what a remarkable achievement! A fascinating biography of the man behind the camera, an adventure story, an intimate glimpse of the despair resulting from misguided (and greedy?) government policies, and images of a way of life that was disappearing even as it was recorded--this book will hold your interest in such a variety of ways. If you have an interest in photography, history, Native Americans, or life in the early 1900's, I can strongly recommend this amazing book. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. Nonfiction. Biography/History. 2012. 384 pages.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Edward Curtis was an amazing photographer and adventurer, determined to do the work of a self-trained anthropologist and capture the native lives of America's first people. This is his fascinating story. Like many great artists, he was obsessively dedicated, swinging between poles of manic fieldwork (17 hours a day, 7 days a week), and bouts of deep depression. Amazing to think that Curtis spent 30 years WITHOUT BEING PAID A CENT to create the 20-volume national treasure The North American India Edward Curtis was an amazing photographer and adventurer, determined to do the work of a self-trained anthropologist and capture the native lives of America's first people. This is his fascinating story. Like many great artists, he was obsessively dedicated, swinging between poles of manic fieldwork (17 hours a day, 7 days a week), and bouts of deep depression. Amazing to think that Curtis spent 30 years WITHOUT BEING PAID A CENT to create the 20-volume national treasure The North American Indian. When asked by a judge investigating Curtis's not paying alimony, the photographer admitted the project was "the only thing I could do that was worth doing," and broke down in tears. This account helped me understand the terrible treatment Native Americans received; I did not realize that they weren't allowed to vote until 1924 (four years after women earned the privilege) and that they didn't receive full citizenship status until 1978. Egan does a good job, I think, of showing Curtis's sympathy for the first people; because of his own personal suffering, I don't feel he undertook the project for personal wealth and fame, both of which were, ultimately, elusive. Also enjoyed reading about Curtis's relationship with Teddy Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan -- a true villain who financed the project and whose company eventually stripped Curtis of all rights to his own work. Fascinating subject and story well told.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cook Memorial Public Library

    Most Americans are familiar with photographs of Native Americans such as Geronimo and Chief Joseph but are not necessarily familiar with the stories behind the pictures of the individuals who went to great expense and effort and even personal risk to create a lasting look of a vanishing culture. Edward Curtis (1868-1952) was such a unique individual and Egan’s telling of his story is a masterpiece of biography and history. With little formal education but with an insatiable passion to leave a la Most Americans are familiar with photographs of Native Americans such as Geronimo and Chief Joseph but are not necessarily familiar with the stories behind the pictures of the individuals who went to great expense and effort and even personal risk to create a lasting look of a vanishing culture. Edward Curtis (1868-1952) was such a unique individual and Egan’s telling of his story is a masterpiece of biography and history. With little formal education but with an insatiable passion to leave a lasting pictorial and written record of native peoples Egan tells of Curtis’ early struggles and eventual support from President Teddy Roosevelt and the financial support of J.P. Morgan to publish a 20 volume illustrated set taken from the tens of thousands of photographs Curtis took of 80 tribes throughout North America. Well beyond the photographs you learn of the many experiences he had over three decades living with native peoples recording their customs and even with sound and early movie recordings. A highly recommended work providing a unique perspective of the history of the American west. --Recommended by Stephen Check our catalog: http://encore.cooklib.org/iii/encore/...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I would happily read or listen to any book written by Timothy Egan. His research is excellent, he writes like a dream and he picks fascinating subjects. THE BIG BURN about Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot is riveting, especially in its descriptions of the huge 1910 forest fire that swallowed up whole towns in a matter of hours. THE WORST HARD TIME shed new light on the Dust Bowl and introduced us to individuals whose families are still scarred by that terrible blight on the land, brought o I would happily read or listen to any book written by Timothy Egan. His research is excellent, he writes like a dream and he picks fascinating subjects. THE BIG BURN about Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot is riveting, especially in its descriptions of the huge 1910 forest fire that swallowed up whole towns in a matter of hours. THE WORST HARD TIME shed new light on the Dust Bowl and introduced us to individuals whose families are still scarred by that terrible blight on the land, brought on by human greed and waste. This one tells the story of Edward Curtis, the remarkable, turn of the century photographer who set out to capture the lives of every North American Indian tribe before their lives and customs were lost to history. He came from nothing, managed to enlist notable figures such as TR and J. P. Morgan in his project and then died a pauper. All of these, as with most non-fiction books I read, I've listened to in audiobook form. They are well read without being "over performed." In each case, the reader gets out of the way and lets the words speak for themselves. As I've narrated three of my own books on audio, I know how hard that can be.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.