The Photography of Edward S. Curtis
A look at the controversial reception of Edward S. Curtis's photographs of early 20th Century Native Americans.
# 1448 | 6,380 words | 11 sources | 2001 |
Published on Feb 17, 2003 in Anthropology (Cultural) , Anthropology (North American) , Art (History) , Ethnic Studies (North American) , Art (Photography)
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This term paper is an overview of the photographic work of Edward S. Curtis, the famous (and infamous) photographer of early 20th Century Native Americans. His photographs today are extremely sought after and widely recognized, yet also despised by many as dishonest depictions rather than an accurate visual historical record. While written from the perspective of visual anthropology, this paper discusses the long history of his work, his controversial methods, and its widely varied public reception.
From the Paper:"Throughout the 20th century Edward Sheriff Curtis and The North American Indian have been both adored and abhorred within various contexts for diverse reasons. While almost all who are interested in Native American culture are familiar with his 30-year photo-documentary project recording all "vanishing" tribes west of the Mississippi River, their acknowledgment does not necessitate acceptance of the scientific or academic accuracy nor the ideological terms of production. While ubiquitous within museums, galleries, textbooks, and the media, his photographs have, since inception, maintained a contested ambivalence between art and science. Much of the controversy and the ebb and flow of popularity has been historically determined to an extent by social, cultural, and economic conditions. Curtis' project began just as Anthropology as a profession was coming of age in the United States, desperate to distinguish itself as a scientific discipline. Simultaneously, photography had become more technologically sophisticated as well as accessible, and began to consciously figure itself both as art and science."
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