Monday, November 4, 2013

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

“Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” by Tim Egan (The Big Burn; Worst Hard Time).  In this biography (Mariner Books, 2012)

Egan tells the epic life of one Edward Curtis, sixth-grade educated photographer whose cause became recording the ethnography of the American Indian, circa 1900, before that entire way of life turned to so much dust.

Egan’s work unveils of the dedication, hard work and soaring triumphs of this man as well as the deep chasms of his despair at society’s inability to grasp his concept.  Egan shares Curtis’s at-whatever-cost efforts to record the passing of North America’s great cultures while selling the importance of his work to presidents, philanthropists, movie moguls and the general public – too many times coming up empty.

To me, and to many others, Edward Curtis’s life was that of an unsung man – someone about whom I would know nothing were it not for the efforts of a reporter such as Egan to bring his life to light.  I have spent the afternoon thumbing through the many volumes I have that tell of Native American Life in both words and image.  Many of those images are the work of Curtis, but because of the inability of turn-of-the century America to value his efforts, the rights to his most amazing work were sold for a pittance. 

That which we do this day may not be rewarded in this life. 

This is a good read that makes me want to walk further in the footsteps of a remarkable man.

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