Cover Image: Edward S. Curtis Portraits

Edward S. Curtis Portraits

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Member Reviews

It's undeniable that Curtis was a great artist - the pictures in this volume are gorgeous.  And it is undeniable that he was prolific and put his spotlight on numerous tribes that aren't always considered in the popular conception of Native Americans.  That said, it really bothered me how much the focus of the book was on Curtis and his travails rather than on the subjects of his photos and how the project impacted them for good (or ill).  and there are so many pictures where the caption includes something like "they don't look very happy."  What is up with that?  Why ignore the people for whom Curtis' project was supposed to document?  Why ignore any impacts or consequences of the choices to dress them in inappropriate or out of sate costumes?  The art is gorgeous, but this book is a huge miss.
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Wonderful photography - the expressions and faces of the subjects, the way Curtis used blankets and props to focus the viewer's eye, the juxtaposition of "modern" (at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries) clothing with "traditional" Native American clothing and accoutrements. Is it problematic that Curtis often "dressed up" his subjects in those accoutrements? If he did with the intention of tokenizing or exploiting them, absolutely. But in reading the accompanying text, and based on his decades-long travels to visit tribes all over North America, I get the impression that Curtis truly believed he was capturing disappearing cultures which he honestly wanted his fellow white Americans to understand and appreciate.
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I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

Edward S. Curtis Portraits is a beautiful collection of photography capturing the real Native Americans. Edward S Curtis captured these photographs starting in the early 1900s right up to the 1930s. The book starts with an introduction about the photographers life and methods of photography and then goes on to showcase his photographs. I lived how the book was set out and that each chapter was focused on a particular tribe and each photograph was labeled with the persons name and a description of them too. What a beautiful way to keep their memories and legacies alive! 
I love books like this and learning about other cultures in the world. The native dress of these amazing and beautiful people is fantastic too.
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There are no words that can truthfully describe this book... Beautiful, haunting, sad all work. If you are interested at all in the Native peoples of the U.S. grab this book!!!
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I want to thank the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.  I selected the book because my husband is Native American. I looked through hoping to see members of his tribe or maybe even an ancestor. Unfortunately his tribe wasn’t included in this collection of portraits. 
The portraits are a absolutely amazing. They offer a glimpse into a time and way of life that has been lost.   Edward S. Curtis understood that a way of life was disappearing and wanted to capture a vanishing lifestyle.
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I am grateful to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The subtitle of this book is “The Many Faces of The Native American”.  This book, was first published in 2017 and is now updated for publication in 2021. It is  essentially a summary of a 20 Volume series by the photographer Edward Curtis, originally published between 1907 and 1930.

This is a fascinating, well presented book. It is the story of a photographer, determined, perhaps obsessed,  with documenting the Native American Indian at a time when their culture, way of life and populations were disappearing from the American landscape. Curtis devoted some 30 years of his life to the project, capturing in film and photography , what he considered to be “…the last hurrah of the American Indian”. 

The Introduction provides important background material on Curtis. He was a successful portrait photographer in Seattle. He had a family and was financially secure. He also traveled widely to remote areas, with national organisations including the US National Geographic Society and Forrest Service. These travels and his interactions with Native Americans seem to have prompted Curtis to embark on his 30 year quest of photographing a disappearing people and their lifestyle

Theodore Roosevelt, president at the time, wrote the introduction to Volume One of Curtis’ eventual 20 volume project and financial support was provided by the financier JP Morgan during subsequent travels and publications.

Although there were many photographers active in taking pictures of the American Indian at the time of his project, few approached their subjects with the sensitivity of Curtis. He apparently gained trust and respect by spending significant time living with his subjects, getting to know their ways of life and customs. In his photography and in his written notes and descriptions, he was clearly sympathetic to the plight of his subjects. 

Curtis is portrayed in the introduction as more than someone merely active in documentation photography. Using classic portraiture techniques, plus carefully arranged garments, props and backgrounds, his photos were artistic rather than merely documentation. It was this approach to his portrait photography of American Indians that much later brought his work criticism of embellishing his subjects.

The 20 Chapters of the book mirror the original 20 volumes published by Curtis. Each volume covers a geographic area of North America, representing several Indian tribes. The photos, a selection of those from the original volumes, at first appear somewhat monotonous but become more interesting when provided with some context. The context comes from a brief description of each photograph, discussing the subject and composition, often with reference to Curtis’ original notes. Nevertheless, the portraits almost always show a sad, stoic face, with few smiles or other signs of joy. The exception being the final chapter, in which Curtis photographed Alaskan Native Indians. These people seems less influenced by the impact of Western ‘civilisation’ and appear more content and even happy in their portraits. 

Subsequent to Volume 20, the final publication, both Curtis and his project faded from view, his marriage over, his finances depleted and a world readjusting to the Great Depression of the 1930s.  During the early 1970s his original photos, plates and notes resurfaced in a bookshop, eventually gaining a new audience and appreciation. 

The author of this book observes that Edward Curtis in modern times has been both “…revered and reviled…” both as an artist and as a photographer. The author captures the main issues of these arguments and provided a balanced perspective, concluding “…our modern day understanding would be less complete without Curtis’ work which can be criticised but not discounted”. 

A century later , the Curtis legacy lives on through his work and through this book. A thoroughly researched, well written and well presented work. The author has provided a good balance of selected photographs, each with accompanying notes. A fine introduction to the book and to each chapter provides necessary context to the times, the travels and to the subjects.

This book would be of particular interest to anyone who enjoys portrait photography and of even greater interest to anyone seeking knowledge and understanding of the American Indian and  their lifestyle during a fast-changing period at the beginning of the 20th century.
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Powerful, striking and emotional photographs of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis. The introduction talks about his life and methods and then the rest of the book presents his images from each of the 20 volumes he produced. A beautiful book.
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The photos in "Edward S. Curtis Portraits" should speak for themselves. How can I write a review that describes how beautiful, how haunting, how incredible the photos included here are? I can't. The photos are presented perfectly, along with short descriptions to help us understand what we're seeing. This is an incredible snapshot journey through Native American tribes - and one you will be sure not to forget.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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This is a well done book with the photos taken over a time period of the early 1900’s up to 1930. Each chapter/volume focuses on a set group of tribes located in the west including Alaska. Each photo has a description of the person along with their name. What I found most interesting is that these were everyday members of the various tribes without a focus on the more well known names within each group.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog
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This is a wonderful and quite mesmerising book of photographic portraits by Curtis. I was very interested to read about Curtis' and his life. I would have loved to have known more about the individuals in the pictures. Thank you to Wayne Youngblood, Chartwell Books and Net Galley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Wonderful sections of Curtis’ volumes. He is well known for his portraits of different Native Americans. A beautiful collection of different tribes. Especially like the images of the women. Highly recommend this book. Interesting notes with the images too. Cannot say enough on how much I enjoyed looking through this book.
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While it is kind of weird how Curtis posed his subjects and covered up their modern clothing, there’s no doubt that his portraits of Native Americans are some of the most striking and emotional I’ve seen, in these pages and elsewhere. His subjects seem alive, with clear emotions on their faces and piercing gazes. It’s not like looking at a portrait - it’s like looking at a person who’s standing before you, holding your gaze and insisting that you really see them.

I’ve seen Curtis' portraits before, but never grouped together like this, in chapters that mirror the original volumes, and never with the accompanying explanatory text identifying their names, their tribes, when Curtis took the photos, and whether they are deliberately posed and dressed or more natural. It gives the portraits even more gravity and presence.

Even with his questionable actions in posing them, Curtis' portraits convey the message he was perhaps aiming for. That even though many of the ways of life for Native Americans have been lost, the people themselves are not gone.

As I stare into the eyes of Curtis' subjects, as I take in their happiness and pain, their contemplation and accusation, I find myself tearing up. I’ve never been this affected by a portrait before. Curtis was without a doubt an artist and master of his craft and we are lucky that he devoted his life to capturing Native Americans on film before their ways of life could be completely lost.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group - Chartwell Books for providing an e-arc for review.
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Edward S. Curtis dedicated his life to capturing portraits of the North American Indian. Believing their culture and way of life was on the verge of disappearing, he wanted to preserve their image in its most authentic self—untouched by the White man. Ironically, in trying to convey this, Curtis would sometimes pose his subjects with blankets to cover their modern attire.

The book opens with a short backstory of Curtis’ childhood. From the early age of 12, Curtis had a love for photography. As he grows older, the book outlines his path to becoming a successful photographer.

The photographs in this book are divided into 20 volumes. Each volume highlights a different tribe and provides some insight into each tribe. Curtis’ photographs captured a wide range of his subjects’ emotions, showcasing happiness, sadness, despair, pain, and more. 

My favorite volume was of the Alaskan Eskimo and Nunivak tribes. The portraits in this collection appear the most authentic. Photographs in this collection feature Natives in traditional attire, hunting in kayaks, using tools, and family life. I also enjoyed viewing the portraits from lesser-known tribes such as the Qahatika, Maricopa, and Havasupai. 

I appreciated Curtis’ commitment to preserving the Native American culture, in a time when Natives were dying from disease, war, and famine. 

Thank you, Chartwell Books, for my review copy.
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