A charismatic, handsome and passionate mountaineer, Curtis was obsessed with the idea that Native Americans were a vanishing race. He made it his life’s work to document over 80 traditional Indian cultures west of the Mississippi from the Mexican border to Northwest Alaska. He sacrificed his lucrative portrait business in Seattle, neglected his marriage and family, and often risked his life to produce over 40,000 photographs and 10,000 audio recordings of native cultures where he was allowed to photograph sacred rites, customs and daily life, and to record their often unwritten languages and songs. His limited edition work is compiled into 20 volumes of photographs and text. This extraordinary biography captures the times of early 20th Century America and the grand efforts made by Curtis and his valiant crew to leave an incomparable legacy of the past. His work was financed by J.P. Morgan and supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, but scorned by expert ethnologists of the day because he was thought to be an amateur in their field. “Short Nights…” was the winner of the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction and is a lively and fascinating read.
Jacquie Kitzelman, Denver Art Museum docent since 2003