Vintage portraits taken more than 100 years ago over the span of three decades capture Native American life in the early 20th century

The people within the photographs willingly participated in the project given their culture was at risk of disappearing

  • Series of vintage portraits were taken by American photographer Edward S. Curtis 100 years ago
  • Curtis spent 30 years documenting Native American life from Louisiana to Alaska
  • He took more than 40,000 photographic images of 80 different tribal groups across America
  • It formed part of his monumental project The North American Indian, which is now a significant record

These 40 beautiful, yet haunting, portraits taken more than 100 years ago shine a light on Native American life from way back in the 1900s.

The vintage photographs were shot by renowned American photographer Edward S. Curtis spanning from 1900 to 1930.

His 30-year odyssey to document Native American communities took him from Louisiana to Alaska where he spent time with and photographed 80 different tribal groups.

Curtis took more than 40,000 photographic images and documented thousands of pages worth of text – some of which would eventually form part of his monumental project, The North American Indian. 

He started out on the project to capture the Native American culture before it disappeared. He was conscious of the Native Americans being evicted from their traditional land.

The complete set of The North American Indian is made up of 20 volumes and the last volume was published in 1930. He died in 1952 before a complete set of his work sold for a record $2.88 million at Christie’s in New York in 2012.   

Curtis’ work is now considered one of the most significant records of Native American culture, according to the Library of Congress.

An exhibition, Rediscovering Genius: The Works Of Edward S. Curtis, showcasing the photographer’s body of copper photogravure printing plates used in the production of The North American Indian will be hosted by the Depart Foundation in Los Angeles until January 7.

Renowned American photographer Edward S. Curtis took thousands of photographs of Native Americans to document their way of life back in the 1900s

Renowned American photographer Edward S. Curtis took thousands of photographs of Native Americans to document their way of life back in the 1900s

The vintage photographs were taken more than 100 years ago spanning from 1900 to 1930.

Curtis spent 30 years traveling across America from Louisiana to Alaska where he spent time with and photographed 80 different tribal groups

Curtis spent 30 years traveling across America from Louisiana to Alaska where he spent time with and photographed 80 different tribal groups.

The photographer was determined to document how Indians lived prior to their contact with the white man

The people within the photographs willingly participated in the project given their culture was at risk of disappearing

The people within the photographs willingly participated in the project given their culture was at risk of disappearing

Curtis started the production of his series in 1906 with the sponsorship of J.P. Morgan

Curtis started the production of his series in 1906 with the sponsorship of J.P. Morgan.

The project of photographing and documenting Native Americans was initially only supposed to take Curtis five or six years.

Many of the people Curtis photographed remain unidentified

Many of the people Curtis photographed remain unidentified.

Curtis' work is now considered one of the most significant records of Native American culture

Curtis’ work is now considered one of the most significant records of Native American culture.

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