Shadow Catcher

The Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis

Book Description

When the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry was just get­ting under way, Edward S. Cur­tis began doc­u­ment­ing North Amer­i­can Indi­an cul­ture in words and pho­tographs. Today, almost one hun­dred years lat­er, his work still stands as the most exten­sive and infor­ma­tive col­lec­tion of its kind. His pho­tographs are more than mere doc­u­ments, they are works of art reveal­ing sub­tleties of human expres­sion miss­ing from oth­er his­to­ry and anthro­pol­o­gy records. For thir­ty years, Cur­tis devot­ed him­self to com­pil­ing The North Amer­i­can Indi­an, twen­ty vol­umes of text and over­sized pho­togravure plates. This was a large­ly unprof­itable project, and Cur­tis sac­ri­ficed his fam­i­ly life and his health to make lengthy vis­its to Amer­i­can Indi­an com­mu­ni­ties through­out the west­ern Unit­ed States and Cana­da. Filled with Cur­tis’s breath­tak­ing pho­tographs, Shad­ow Catch­er traces Cur­tis’s life and work from his boy­hood in Wis­con­sin, through his first pho­to expe­di­tion to Alas­ka in 1897 and the com­ple­tion of The North Amer­i­can Indi­an col­lec­tion in 1930, to his death in 1952.

Awards and Recognition

  • Carl Sand­burg Award for Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture, 1995
  • Hun­gry Mind Review 995 Chil­dren’s Book of Dis­tinc­tion Award
  • SCBWI Gold­en Kite Hon­or Book, Non­fic­tion, 1994

Resources

  • Edward S. Cur­tis’s The North Amer­i­can Indi­an,” North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, Dig­i­tal Library Col­lec­tion (Edward Sher­iff Cur­tis pub­lished The North Amer­i­can Indi­an between 1907 and 1930 with the intent to record tra­di­tion­al Indi­an cul­tures. The work com­pris­es twen­ty vol­umes of nar­ra­tive text and pho­togravure images. Each vol­ume is accom­pa­nied by a port­fo­lio of large pho­togravure plates. The entire work is pre­sent­ed here, sup­port­ed large­ly by funds from the Insti­tute for Muse­um and Library Ser­vices.)
  • Library of Con­gress Nation­al Dig­i­tal Library, North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty,
    North Amer­i­can Indi­an Pho­tographs by Edward S. Cur­tis (I used this col­lec­tion to cre­ate the pho­tos select­ed in the book.)

Reviews and Comments

starred review“More than a ref­er­ence and more than a biog­ra­phy of Cur­tis, this care­ful­ly researched, high­ly read­able book empha­sizes the pho­tog­ra­pher’s per­se­ver­ance and quest for qual­i­ty and can serve as a mod­el for young peo­ple.” (School Library Jour­nal, starred review)

“The sepia repro­duc­tions of [Cur­tis’s] pho­tographs are as elo­quent as Lawlor’s well-writ­ten text.” (The Horn Book)

The hand­some book, print­ed on fine, sepia-toned paper, is well worth hav­ing.” (Book­list)

“The excep­tion­al qual­i­ty of this pho­to­graph­ic work is a trib­ute to the man and his vision and will serve to acquaint anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans with his work.” (VOYA)

“A mag­nif­i­cent biog­ra­phy indeed, chron­i­cling the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry pho­tog­ra­pher’s quest to doc­u­ment Native Amer­i­can cul­ture.” (Smith­son­ian)

Shadow Catcher

writ­ten by Lau­rie Lawlor
Bison Books
Imprint of Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Press
This ver­sion is paper­back.
(orig­i­nal­ly Walk­er Books, 1994)

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