Edward Curtis

by Ann M. Colford & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & dward Curtis was born in 1868 in Wisconsin and grew up in Minnesota. At 19, he moved to Washington Territory with his father and eventually settled in Seattle, where he established a photography studio. He became one of the most respected portrait photographers in Seattle and followed the influence of his New York contemporaries, Alfred Steiglitz and Edward Steichen, who sought to bring a more artistic vision to the burgeoning medium of photography.

While working in Seattle, Curtis developed an interest in the local coastal Salish Indians who lived nearby; in 1895, he shot a portrait of the aging daughter of Chief Sealth, a woman known as Princess Angeline. He was appointed the official photographer of the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899 and later traveled to Montana and the Southwest with anthropologist George Bird Grinnell to document Indian ceremonies and traditions.

The images from those journeys began his project to document the tribal life and culture of American Indians west of the Mississippi "that still retain to a considerable degree their primitive customs and traditions." In 1906, Curtis received sponsorship from financier J.P. Morgan and set out on his lifetime project: The North American Indian, 20 books of text and prints, with accompanying portfolios of photogravures, published volume by volume between 1907 and 1930. He reportedly created 40,000 photographs and 10,000 wax cylinder recordings in 75 languages during his decades of travel. The photogravures on display are from the Spokane Public Library's rare complete copy of The North American Indian.