A rare photo collection of Native American life in the early 1900s, 1904-1924

Born in Wisconsin in 1868, Edward Sheriff Curtis began photography at an early age. In 1895 he photographed Princess Angeline, daughter of the Duwamish Chief Seattle, for whom the city was named.

That encounter led to Curtis's lifelong fascination with the cultures and lives of Native American tribes. He soon joined an expedition to visit tribes in Alaska and Montana.

In 1906, Curtis was approached by wealthy financier JPMorgan, who was interested in funding a documentary project on the continent's indigenous peoples. He conceived a 20-volume series called The North American Indian.

Accompanied by a trail wagon and assistants traveling onwards to arrange the trip, Edward Curtis sets out on a journey that will see him photograph the most important Native Americans of the time, including Geronimo, Red Cloud, Medicine Crow and Chief Joseph.

The trips were not without risks—impassable roads, disease, and mechanical failures; arctic thunderstorms and the scorching heat of the Mohave Desert; Encounters with suspicious and "rude warriors".

On wax cylinders, his crew collected over 10,000 recordings of songs, music and speech in more than 80 tribes, most of them with their own language.

Curtis was allowed to conduct reenactments of battles and traditional ceremonies among the Indians, for the entertainment of the Aboriginal elders, and sometimes for a fee, and he had them use his 14-inch-by-17-inch view camera. Documented with, which produced glass-plate negatives that yielded the crisp, detailed and gorgeous gold-tone prints for which he was noted. Native Americans relied on him and eventually named him "Shadow Catcher."

In his attempts to capture and record what he saw as a vanishing way of life, Curtis sometimes interfered with the documentary authenticity of his images.

He stripped his subjects of hints of Western civilization in romantic settings, currently more representative of a fictitious pre-Columbian existence than the subjects' real lives.

"Noble Savage" stereotypes aside, Curtis's monumental work is one of the most influential historical records of Native American life in the early 20th century.

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