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Friday, 08 July 2016


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Will that be your next book sale? :)

[If there are any left over we'd be happy to sell the remainders. You can send me a $2,500 non-refundable deposit now if you like, to reserve your place in line. :-) --Mike]

Mike, check out 'Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher' by Timothy Egan. A very interesting read describing the effort that Curtis put into his life's work. We can only be grateful for his foresight and perseverance.
Rick in CO

...kind of surprised they would have made copy photos with a Nikon D800, when you could get high-end flat scanners that would do 24 and 48 bit files; unless it was a physical problem. Then still, a Hasselblad with 16 bit?

[Flat scanner wouldn't work. Can't flatten a book from a million and a half dollar set. I think they do, or did, have scanners that were specifically made for book pages; Google "scanner for books" and look at the images for some inventive contraptions. I don't know the specifics here, but I'd wager the owner of the source copies didn't want the images subjected to the bright light of a scanner. --Mike]

Thanks Mike! I just forwarded this article to some friends who plan to go to the USA. They want to go to the national parks and also like to see something of the Indian culture. Don’t know what they expect to find, but surely they won’t find the world of Curtis. I gave them a small book published by Taschen that also claims ‘The Complete Portfolios’ of Curtis at the cover, but it certainly does not contain 2.234 images. It is very well designed and printed though and costs only €15 (about $17).

A few days ago I wanted to bring up large format photography into the small sensor format discussion with Curtis as an example. For most purposes all modern sensors are good enough, even the small ones. But 4X5 inch or larger is a an other ball game. Those images have a different look. Some kind of grandeur that you can’t imitate with small sensors, including full-frame. In museums and galleries I can always pick out that large formats easily.

It sounds to me like Curtis was consciously trying to document the past North American Indian culture, rather than the rapidly-changing present one of his day. That actually plays into the discussion of photography vs. photo-illustration; he was essentially viewing his subjects as models portraying something that was no longer all there.

("Sounds" seems better than "looks" when it's the words I've seen on the topic that mostly set my opinion rather than the photos themselves; even though those words have been read rather than heard.)

There's also the matter of Curtis' photos being beautiful, because damn, they are beautiful. It's pictorial at its very very best.

Here's a second recommendation for Tim Egan's "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher" - a great read.

Nor was JP Morgan the wealthiest man in the world, by a long shot, although many assumed at the time he was. Rockefeller probably took that prize.

Yeah, you could say that there are considerable similarities between the practices of Mr. Curtis and Mr. McCurry- except that Mr. Curtis was the first to attempt any type of photographic documentation of an entire culture. The ground rules were far from established.

Mr. McCurry has the benefit and experience of decades on how to document a people and culture without resorting to manipulative trickery. He can choose to ignore that tradition and call himself a "story teller," or he can go down the straight and narrow road following now well recognized documentary guidelines. Instead, he has chosen to not only jump between categories whenever financially convenient, but not bothering to inform or distinguish between the two when he purposely blurs the categories.

In defense of Curtis re "romanticizing" the culture, I expect that much of that was encouraged by the subjects themselves. The older subjects probably had fond memories of the "old days", and the younger ones were raised on stories of those times. Curtis was not a trained anthropologist in the modern sense, and he preferred the positive memories he heard as the model of reality-as did his subjects. Still, its probably as close to the reality of their early culture as it was still possible to get.
I have the Taschen 1997 paperback edition, which says it was taken from "10 portfolios and 10 encyclopedic volumes", with all 721 photos in the portfolios and a selection from the volumes included. Its a favorite of mine.

I wonder if the 20 set volume will also include the 20 set portfolio of prints? Each volume had a companion portfolio of images that could be shown independently. I believe those images differed from the book, but it's been a while since I have seen any. By the way, Northwestern University has the entire collection, including the text, digitized.

Many of the visitors to ToP will only have a hazy idea of where Wales is in the world, and even less idea about the county of Ceredigion. However, it's the home of the National Library of Wales, which has original copies of the first ten volumes of The North American Indian. More pertinently, during The Eye photography festival in Aberystwyth (Sept 30 - Oct 02) there will be an opportunity for those who book early enough to enjoy the originals in the NLW. I'm lucky, I just live a few miles down the road.

I'll strongly second Rick's recommendation for Timothy Egan's Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. I thought it was beautifully written, compassionate, and had a real element of tragedy.

If memory serves (been a while since I read Shadow Catcher), Teddy Roosevelt gave "moral" support only. Curtis could have remained a very successful commercial photographer and local celebrity, instead his project to document the American Indian became his life long obsession. He was constantly stressing to get enough funding for his project; and it finally cost him his marriage, his relationship with his brother and other family members, before dying penniless and in ill health.

Oh, that's another difference between Curtis and McCurry- the latter performed his manipulative projects to enable a comfortable living, Curtis sacrificed a very comfortable lifestyle to devote himself to his documentation despite the outcome.

just call it 'composing artistry':) / pre-editing or such like... interesting review here: http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/07/03/photographing-psyche-marcel-sternberger/ on the working of marcel sternberger's famous portraits....how different/not from curtis' working?


s. wolters:
If they are in Albuquerque, they should certainly stop by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Since the Pueblos don't take too kindly to visitors, they need to be careful about just driving in and looking around.

The AAA has an "Indian Country" Map that lists many of the sites that they might want to see. I would suggest:
Mesa Verde
Canyon de Chelly
Bandolier National Monument
Chaco Canyon

K Thompson, you have MADE MY DAY! Thank you so much! It never occurred to me to try cross-polarization with silvering-out prints!

[Apologies for the exclamation points and caps, Mike, but I am giddy at the thought that a seemingly insurmountable problem of mine can be dealt with so trivially.]

I would happily buy the ebook.

Seriously - why isn't this available in digital format to to every library and reader in the world, since they obviously have it in digitized form? I don't think the availability of the ebook would undermine the (limited) market for the entire set. Or make it available after the printed books are sold.

There's no reason for this material to be unobtanium any more.

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