Mesocosm

"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us." – Franz Kafka

Edward S. Curtis

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In my last post on the Kwakwaka’wakw winter dances, I included a few photographs taken by Edward S. Curtis. As I’ve continued my study of Native American culture, I’ve been struck many times by his powerful photographs, and wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

Edward Curtis (1868–1952) traveled extensively throughout the west in his efforts to document dozens of Native American peoples. His work has been criticized by some for their artificial character, representing an idealized image of the Indian as noble savage and minimizing the conditions of squalor in which so many of his subjects were condemned to live.

Personally, I would not trade these images for anything. Many of them represent a precious, fleeting glimpse of a way of life that in many cases have been all but destroyed.

Click on any image to begin slideshow.

Curtis was also a filmmaker, and completed one feature-length silent film, In the Land of the War Conoes (available through Netflix). It was the first film to be shot with an entirely Native American cast, and includes extensive footage of Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonials, including the Hamatsa dance.

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Written by Mesocosm

November 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm

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