Monday, February 9, 2015

The Man who Documented the Last American Tribes (36 Pics)

His lifework documenting the North American Indian was once hailed as “the most ambitious enterprise in publishing since the production of the King James Bible.” Today I found his photographs deep in the Flickr’s archives with no copyright restrictions, free for use. At the height of Edward Curtis’ career, he had one of the most powerful bankers of his era, J.P. Morgan, personally financing him. But much like the subjects Curtis chose in his photographs, he and his work seem to have been tragically forgotten in the past…
Pictured in his self-portrait above, Curtis started up with photography at a young age, taking apprenticeships and eventually purchasing his own share in a photography studio in Seattle, where he settled with his young wife and their expanding family. He made a good living taking flattering photographs of society ladies, but soon enough, the call would come.

A born adventurer, Curtis befriended a group of prominent scientists who invited him on his first quest as the official photographer for an expedition to Alaska in 1899, a two month journey discovering remote Eskimo settlements and glaciers. You could say Edward instantly caught the travel bug.
When the scientists invited him to come on a visit to the Piegan Blackfeet in Montana the following year, he packed his camera, months worth of supplies and left his young family again to travel by foot and by horse deep into the Indian territories. Curtis was instantly taken with the North American Indian tribe and their way of life. It was an encounter that would change the course of his life.

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