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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic…
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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs… (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Timothy Egan

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Member:jhhymas
Title:Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
Authors:Timothy Egan
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012), Edition: 1st Edition, 1st Printing, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (2012)

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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan is a biography of photographer Edward Curtis (1868–1952), who, after 1896, began to devote his life to photographing all of the Native American tribes, much to the detriment of his portrait photography studio and his marriage. Curtis felt that the Native American's way of life and perhaps the people themselves were heading toward extinction and he wanted to capture images of them in native garb and showcasing their way of life before that happened.

Backed by President Theodore Roosevelt, Curtis proposed a monumental project to J.P. Morgan: financing the fieldwork needed to publish a 20 volume set of photographs of Native American tribes. He received Morgan's backing and financial support of the project, but in the negotiations he did not take any compensation for his time.

Curtis spent the next 30 years living with the tribes he was studying and photographing, mostly during the summer months. Then he would spend months trying to drum up support of his endeavor from other sources and trying to find supporters who would commit to buying volumes of his project before publication.

Curtis not only took over 40,000 photographs, but also made over 10,000 audio recording of languages and songs. While the final 20-volume set of The North American Indian was published to critical acclaim, it left Curtis destitute. Eventually the estate of J.P. Morgan obtained all the rights to his photographs and plates and sold them for only $1000 during the depression. Today, Curtis's photographs of Native Americans are extremely valuable.

I really enjoyed Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. It is a fascinating look at a man who had a vision and risked everything for it. While chronicling Curtis's life as of a man with a passionate vision, Egan also gives credit to others who helped Curtis fulfill his dream, often under dangerous conditions. Additionally, Egan includes numerous copies of Curtis's photographs in the text, as well as a list of sources, photo credits, and an index. All in all, Egan did a commendable job setting this biography in the historical time and place while detailing the events in Curtis's life.

Very Highly Recommended - especially for those interested in Western history during the early 1900's and those interested in the history of photographers.
http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
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  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
In 1900, at the age of 32, Edward Curtis decided to leave his family and photography studio behind in Seattle and pursue his dream, or more appropriately his obsession, with documenting in word and picture the lives of the remaining Native Americans in North America. He would spend the next three decades living among the tribes, painstakingly recording their everyday lives, their music, their alphabets and taking thousands of photographs that he included in an ambitious 20 volume set of books titled "The North American Indian". Curtis had the friendship and encouragement of Teddy Roosevelt and the financial backing of J.P Morgan, although Curtis worked without salary and lived a nearly destitute life. He realized long before many others did that the traditions of the Indians were quickly being replaced by those of the white man and that he would need to finish his project before even the tribes themselves did not remember the old ways. He was incensed at the treatment of the native Americans and opposed to US government laws that kept the Indians from practicing their religions and cultures. Curtis so sympathized with the Indians that he spent long months with survivors at Little Big Horn learning a much different history than what had been popularly told of Custer the hero. During the time that motion pictures were first being produced, Curtis made a documentary film that was well-received by reviewers and the public alike but ended being pulled from the theaters due to litigation. Curtis never made a cent from his 20 volumes or his documentary and he died in his tiny apartment on the outskirts of Hollywood where he had worked sporadically for several eminent directors. Today "The North American Indian" set sells for close to 2 million dollars and Curtis' photographs are prized possessions of collectors. Author Timothy Egan does a magnificent job of detailing Curtis' life and life-long obsession with the American Indian. ( )
  Ellen_R | Feb 27, 2016 |
An incredible determination and an incredible life. I would love to see one or all of the original bound volumes of his work one day.
I listened to this as a book on tape, it was very well read. I wasn't sure how a book on CD about photographs would be, but it was great. The extra CD contained some of his photos, which was a really nice bonus. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
This was great as an audiobook. The reader left a lot to be desired (just wasn't a fabulous voice or inflection) but the story itself was so captivating that I forgave all and was engrossed with the great American story. This work covers such important events in our history and even though I couldn't gaze at the photographs as I listened, I could literally picture their beauty as I drove along. Loved it! ( )
  bjoelle5 | Feb 10, 2016 |
4.5* This was the truly fascinating story of Edward S. Curtis, a photographer I thought I was quite familiar with. Curtis' story was so much more than a few photographs of native Americans. I was blown away by how much he tried to attempt, the miles he traveled, the people he talked to, the number of pages he wrote and photos he made, the stories, songs, and languages he recorded (in audio and on paper), the adventures and losses he had.

There were minor ways I might have rearranged the chronological/thematic aspects of the book, but it was very well written. I would rate the book higher than the reading (I listened to the audio but looked at the pictures in the book). The reading was fine but a little flat. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Timothy Egan brings Curtis alive as an energetic overachiever scrambling against the annihilating effects of time, government officials and Christian missionaries
 
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Epigraph
We are vanishing from the earth, yet I cannot think we are useless or else U sen would not have created us. He created all tribes of men and cererontainly had a righteous purpose in creating each. - Geronimo Apache
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is in the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself at sunset. - Crowfoot Blackfeet
Dedication
In memory of Joan Patricia Lynch Egan, mother of seven, who filled us with the Irish love of the underdog and of the written word. She was sustained by books until the very end.
First words
The last Indian of Seattle lived in a shack down among the greased piers and coal bunkers of the new city, on what was then called West Street, her hovel in the grip of Puget Sound, off plumb in a rise above the tidal flats.
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Book description
CONTENTS: First picture -- Encounter on a volcano -- The Big Idea -- Indian Napoleon -- With the President -- In the den of the titan -- Anglos in Indian country -- The artist and his audience -- The Custer conundrum -- The most remarkable man -- On the river of the West -- New art forms -- Moving pictures -- Lost days -- Second wind -- The longest days -- Fight to the finish -- Twilight -- Epilogue: Revival.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618969020, Hardcover)

In the summer of 1900, Edward Curtis gave up a successful photography career to pursue a quixotic plan: to photograph all the Indian communities in North America. He quickly learned that his subjects were dying off fast, so he’d need to hurry if he was “to capture the essence of their lives before that essence disappeared.” A mountaineer, explorer, intrepid photojournalist, and amateur anthropologist, Curtis was Ansel Adams crossed with Annie Leibovitz, a willful and passionate chronicler of a people he came to love. “I want to make them live forever,” Curtis said in the early days of his decades-long mission. As Egan’s thrilling story attests, he succeeded, even though he died penniless and alone. --Neal Thompson

Photos from the Author (Amazon.com Exclusive)

Bear's Belly
Bear's Belly (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

Click here for a larger image

Before the Storm
Before the Storm (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

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Canyon De Chelley
Canyon De Chelley (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

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Oasis in the Bad Lands
Oasis in the Bad Lands (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

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Piegan Encampment
Piegan Encampment (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

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Watching Dancers
Watching Dancers (Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Cardozo Fine Art)

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Edward Curtis was dashing, charismatic, a passionate mountaineer, a famous photographer--the Annie Liebowitz of his time. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his great idea: He would try to capture on film the Native American nation before it disappeared. At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan's book tells the remarkable untold story behind Curtis's iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance--six years alone to convince the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his twenty volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise--his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America's most stunning cultural achievements."--… (more)

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