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

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

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