Edward Sheriff Curtis was born on February 16 in 1868. He was an American photographer as well as ethnologist, who focused his work primarily on Native American people.
Curtis took interest in photography early in his life. By the age of 17 he was an apprentice photographer and by 19 he had purchased his own camera as well as half the share of a photographic studio.
His first photograph of a Native American was a photo of Princess Angeline, or Kickisomlo, the daughter of Chief Sealth of Seattle. The photo was a hit, along with 2 of his other photos- they were chosen to be in an exhibit sponsored by the National Photographic Society.
Over the course of the next 5 years, Curtis took over 1500 photographs of American Indians. He was able to hire several employees under him during his voyage to help record the languages, help with the logistics and field work, and an anthropologist who had studied Native people.
Curtis’s goal was to preserve the Native American way of life through photography.In 1912, he produced a film titled “In the Land of the Head Hunters”. The first ever film to depict a cast entirely of Native Peoples.
To me his work is both inspiring and important- it depicts Native people of the time in a way that was preserving of their way of life and educational. In a nation where it was illegal to be who they were, Edward S. Curtis’s photo’s display the humanity of First Nations people, and showcased the beauty and intricacy of their regalia, hair, and jewelry.
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