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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
Archive: Other Books > Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan 5 stars

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Ellen | 2137 comments In 1900, at the age of 32, Edward Curtis decided to leave his family and photography studio behind in Seattle and pursue his dream, or more appropriately his obsession, with documenting in word and picture the lives of the remaining Native Americans in North America. He would spend the next three decades living among the tribes, painstakingly recording their everyday lives, their music, their alphabets and taking thousands of photographs that he included in an ambitious 20 volume set of books titled "The North American Indian". Curtis had the friendship and encouragement of Teddy Roosevelt and the financial backing of J.P Morgan, although Curtis worked without salary and lived a nearly destitute life. He realized long before many others did that the traditions of the Indians were quickly being replaced by those of the white man and that he would need to finish his project before even the tribes themselves did not remember the old ways. He was incensed at the treatment of the native Americans and opposed to US government laws that kept the Indians from practicing their religions and cultures. Curtis so sympathized with the Indians that he spent long months with survivors at Little Big Horn learning a much different history than what had been popularly told of Custer the hero. During the time that motion pictures were first being produced, Curtis made a documentary film that was well-received by reviewers and the public alike but ended being pulled from the theaters due to litigation. Curtis never made a cent from his 20 volumes or his documentary and he died in his tiny apartment on the outskirts of Hollywood where he had worked sporadically for several eminent directors. Today "The North American Indian" set sells for close to 2 million dollars and Curtis' photographs are prized possessions of collectors. Author Timothy Egan does a magnificent job of detailing Curtis' life and life-long obsession with the American Indian.

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Red52 Beautifully reviewed

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Cora (corareading) | 1361 comments I am glad you liked this, I have this one and am just waiting to see if a tag comes up that it will fit.

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Jgrace | 2817 comments My list keeps growing. Thanks for this review.

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Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments This sounds like a must read. Thank you for such an insightful review.

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