Edward Curtis, Ethno-photographer

Great photo-essay on Mashable, on the photography of Edward S. Curtis, the American photographer who spent twenty years from 1904 to 1924 engaged in documenting the lives and material culture of the First Nations people of the USA.

Included in the Mashable article were some amazingly clear and beautiful images of dancers engaged in the Hamatsa ritual here in the Pacific Northwest, wearing the masks of the Skull-breaker and Crooked Beak of Heaven, the companions of the Cannibal from the North End of the World.

Other images of the Kwakiutl people in this article are equally fascinating, including the shamans and dancers representing other spirits and legends, some of which are not familiar to me.

Who, for example, is the forest spirit known as “the Bringer of Confusion”?

 

A Kwakiutl shaman

A Kwakiutl shaman

In general, the impression I got was that the 20-volume series commissioned by J. P. Morgan, The North American Indian, must have been one of the most significant anthropological works of the 20th century. I think it’s a pity that the majority of anthropology programs don’t encourage students to develop any technical skill and artistic finesse with things like photography, cinematography and audio recording. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I’ll have to see if there’s a copy of these somewhere in the stacks of the local university and city libraries. It looks like a gold mine.

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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