'Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher': Edward Curtis, Photographer of the American Frontier

Friday, October 12, 2012

At the turn of the 20th century, Edward Curtis became a central figure in the American arts, photographing the likes of President Roosevelt and counting J.P. Morgan as one of his benefactors. "Teddy Roosevelt said that the picture that Curtis took of him in his home in Sagamore Hill was the best picture anyone had ever taken of a man who was the most popular American in the world," says Timothy Egan, author of the new book, "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis." 

But Curtis's real triumph were his photographs of Native Americans. Over the course of 30 years, the photographer with a sixth grade education took 40,000 photographs of Native Americans, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and created the most definitive archive of the American Indian.

Timothy Egan explains that Curtis's goal was to document Native American life before many of their old customs disappeared.

"Curtis had a way of finding the humanity in people," Egan explains. He understood the particularly tragic history of Native Americans — and managed to tell that story through his photographs — because, Egan says, "he bothered to get their story down."

Guests:

Timothy Egan

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Rebecca Klein

Comments [2]

Elin from NJ

Where is the slide show in this site?

Nov. 13 2012 01:22 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Why is it so difficult for great artists to be appreciated while they are still alive? I guess the old expression,"He was ahead of his time," really means just that; the artist does his great work unappreciated, and has to die and some time has to lapse before the rest of the world catches up to his vision.

What a painful incredible story of dedication

Oct. 12 2012 12:30 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.