Edward Sheriff Curtis, Clayoquot Shaman Woman, c.1910
For the past month, I've been lugging a giant canvas bag between my home and Clark University's library. In this bag were dozens of books about Edward Sheriff Curtis, the famed photographer and anthropologist who appears in this exhibit. I had no trouble researching Curtis, since he is such a popular and historically prominent artist. The consequence of writing about a well-known figure like Curtis, however, was having to read enough books to fill a canvas bag to have a decent understanding of the scholarly consensus on the man. Curtis was simultaneously impressive and inaccurate in his extensive photographic record of Native American cultures, and it took me a while to fully grasp the many issues raised by his controversial career. My research also required analyzing Clark University's own copy of Curtis's twenty-volume publication, The North American Indian, and examining his photographic prints that illustrate it. I'm hoping to have time in the future to admire the University's copy again, because although I see many flaws in Edward Curtis' book, I'm still an enormous fan of his beautiful photographs. Until then, I rely on a catalog that reprints every photograph that appeared in The North American Indian. It's not the same quality as the original versions, but acceptable for now.