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Shadows, Reflections, Spirits: The Stories Behind Edward Curtis’s Photos of Native America

Evening Lecture

This program has a new location.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 7:00 p.m.
Code: 1F0164

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Edward Curtis was dashing, charismatic, a passionate outdoorsman, and a famous photographer, but in 1900 he walked away from success in pursuit of a great idea: to document the Native American nation poised at the brink of the modern era.

Over the next 30 years, Curtis produced 40,000 evocative and visually elegant photographs that recorded the lives and lands of more than 80 tribes. Although penniless at his death, Curtis left behind a legacy of iconic images, some of which are now part of Smithsonian collections, that have since shaped our views and understanding of these complex cultures.

Timothy Egan discusses the path of Curtis’s epic artistic and cultural journey, visiting the same locations where he set up his cameras beginning more than a century ago.  His presentation covers the history of a number of images, looking at them as both works of photographic art and visual records of a now-vanished West. He’ll describe the differences between the landscapes that he and Curtis found, and explore the tribal worlds of the Native Americans who posed for the artist he describes as “one part Indiana Jones, one part Ernest Hemingway with a camera.”

Egan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times and author of books including The Worst Hard Time. Copies of his new volume, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), will be available for purchase.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
Lecture Hall
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)