Project 220 FT:  Edward S. Curtis

I love books.  I was delighted to move into an apartment with ample built-ins for my book collection.  Then, I unpacked.  My book “collection” fills about 40 feet of shelving.  I just measured the shelves…I have 220 feet of shelf space.

So, I am going to buy more books!  Found this book in a sale bin and have learned so much and am so inspired, I wanted to share.

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Edward S. Curtis spent over 30 years documenting Native American tribes west of the Mississippi, from the southern U.S. border to Alaska.  He published his work in a twenty volume subscription from 1907 to 1930…Imagine writing an encyclopedia, virtually solo, on one topic, over the course of 30 years…

His work was not without controversy.  As he covered his subjects at the turn of the twentieth century, many tribes had adopted western materials and mannerisms.

Curtis was known to stage his shots, request particular wardrobe, and remove western references by doctoring photos when developing the glass-plate negatives…ah, the days before Photoshop when photos were developed in a darkroom…

{link url=”http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a55028/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”}A Smoky Day at the Sugar Bowl–Hupa{/link}

But regardless of settings or wardrobes, no one can deny he captured beauty of the land and the people who inhabited the Western United States.

He was famous for his obsessive dedication to this project and was quoted as saying, “People do not want a tale of woe…they want results from a worker who managed to keep a smile most of the time.”  Wise words.

You can view over 2500 pieces of his work at the Library of Congress.  And learn more about him at the Smithsonian Institution Library.