Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Egan has done it again: taken a time and place in history and unlocked new insights and revelations from material we thought we already knew. He takes us to those early, hurly burly days in Seattle, when Edward Curtis, a hard-strapped young man, follows his dream to become a prominent and brilliant photographer. Through Egan's lucid, beautiful prose, we watch as Curtis hits the pinnacle, sought by presidents and millionaires, and as he takes off on a project that will ultimately consume and destroy him -- photographing and writing about and recording the languages, cultures, and customs of Native Americans across the continent. And yet this project will leave a vast legacy that has enriched both Native Americans and our current nation to this day. Bravo to Egan for bringing this story into the light!

— Victoria


"A vivid exploration of one man's lifelong obsession with an idea . . . Egan's spirited biography might just bring Curtis] the recognition that eluded him in life." -- Washington Post
Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous portrait photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. But when he was thirty-two years old, in 1900, he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent's original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.
Curtis spent the next three decades documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty North American tribes. It took tremendous perseverance -- ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him to observe their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Curtis would amass more than 40,000 photographs and 10,000 audio recordings, and he is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian.
"A darn good yarn. Egan is a muscular storyteller and his book is a rollicking page-turner with a colorfully drawn hero." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A riveting biography of an American original." - Boston Globe
Product Details
ISBN: 9780544102767
ISBN-10: 0544102762
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: August 6th, 2013
Pages: 370
Language: English