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SACRED LEGACY: EDWARD S. CURTIS AND THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN
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22 Feb 2008 - 30 Mar 2008

The American Consulate, together with The University Museum and Art Gallery of The University of Hong Kong presents the photographs of Edward S. Curtis, an American photographer and ethnographer born in rural Wisconsin in 1868. After serving his photography apprenticeship he set up his own studio in Seattle, the success of which allowed him to undertake the project that would take him twenty-four years to complete. The project was to create The North American Indian, a twenty-volume, twenty-portfolio set of handmade books from which many of the images in the exhibition are taken.

As well as producing fifty thousand negatives, 2,200 original photographs and extensive text for the project, Curtis made ten thousand recordings of Native languages and music and filmed the first and most extensive moving-picture footage ever made of Native Americans. He also acted as the project's principal ethnographer, fundraiser, publisher and administrator. It was widely hailed as the finest and most ambitious set of limited-edition books ever made in America by a single man. It also cost Curtis greatly: his health and personal life deteriorated during the course of, what The New York Herald described in 1911 as, the most gigantic undertaking since the publication of the King James Edition of The Bible.

Most of Curtis's works were produced as photogravure prints (a combination of photography and etching) and covers his trips to the Great Plains, the Southwest, the Northwest coast, the Plateau and Alaska. Curtis's ambition to create a photo-ethnographic study of Native American cultures was consolidated during a visit to the Great Plains in the summer of 1900. His work includes portraits, landscapes and documentation of the everyday life of Native Americans in the early 20th century.

An award-winning documentary called "Coming to Light" by Anne Makepeace, focusing on Edward S. Curtis's work and its relationship to contemporary Native Americans will be shown in English with Chinese subtitles during the exhibition period.

 

Shot in the Hand 

 Pigment Print 1909


A Painted Tipi - Assiniboin 

 Platinum Print 1928 

 

Three Chiefs 

Platinum  Print 1900

 

 (Photo courtesy of Christopher G. Cardozo)

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