The gift of the face

Portraiture and time in Edward S. Curtis’s the North American Indian

Shamoon Zamir

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

    Abstract

    Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian is the most ambitious photographic and ethnographic record of Native American cultures ever produced. Published between 1907 and 1930 as a series of twenty volumes and portfolios, the work contains more than two thousand photographs intended to document the traditional culture of every Native American tribe west of the Mississippi. Many critics have claimed that Curtis’s images present Native peoples as a “vanishing race,” hiding both their engagement with modernity and the history of colonial violence. But in this major reappraisal of Curtis’s work, Shamoon Zamir argues instead that Curtis’s photography engages meaningfully with the crisis of culture and selfhood brought on by the dramatic transformations of Native societies. This crisis is captured profoundly, and with remarkable empathy, in Curtis’s images of the human face. Zamir also contends that we can fully understand this achievement only if we think of Curtis’s Native subjects as coauthors of his project. This radical reassessment is presented as a series of close readings that explore the relationship of aesthetics and ethics in photography. Zamir’s richly illustrated study resituates Curtis’s work in Native American studies and in the histories of photography and visual anthropology.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    PublisherUniversity of North Carolina Press
    Number of pages342
    ISBN (Electronic)1469615657, 9781469615653
    ISBN (Print)9781469611754
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

    Fingerprint

    American Indian
    gift
    photography
    traditional culture
    history
    empathy
    modernity
    critic
    anthropology
    ethnic group
    aesthetics
    moral philosophy
    violence
    time
    Photography
    Portraiture
    Gift
    North American Indians
    Native Americans
    present

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)
    • Arts and Humanities(all)

    Cite this

    The gift of the face : Portraiture and time in Edward S. Curtis’s the North American Indian. / Zamir, Shamoon.

    University of North Carolina Press, 2014. 342 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

    Zamir, Shamoon. / The gift of the face : Portraiture and time in Edward S. Curtis’s the North American Indian. University of North Carolina Press, 2014. 342 p.
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