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

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct 9, 2012 - History - 352 pages

“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
 

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Before beginning the first chapter of this book, I only knew the story from the blurb on the jacket, which I read in a bookstore in Bellingham, Wa. But when I read the first chapter I realized I was ... Read full review

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There are few things more guaranteed to be enjoyed than a Timothy Egan non-fiction book. I have read all but one of his, and they all flow easily, educate substantially, and capture their subjects ... Read full review

Contents

1 First Picture
1
2 Encounter on a Volcano
23
3 The Big Idea
41
4 Indian Napoleon
61
5 With the President
81
6 In the Den of the Titan
105
7 Anglos in Indian Country
121
8 The Artist and His Audience
137
13 Moving Pictures
229
14 Lost Days
245
15 Second Wind
259
16 The Longest Days
279
17 Fight to the Finish
291
18 Twilight
301
Revival
317
Back Matter
327

9 The Custer Conundrum
159
10 The Most Remarkable Man
179
11 On the River of the West
193
12 New Art Forms
207
Back Flap
371
Back Cover
372
Spine
373
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

TIMOTHY EGAN is a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer for the New York Times and the best-selling author of six books. In 2006 he won the National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time.

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