At the Old Well of Acoma

At the Old Well of Acoma


Edward S. Curtis

(American, 1868-1952)

Platinum print

Image: 32.3 x 41.6 cm (12 11/16 x 16 3/8 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in.)

Gift of Kathryn Arns May in memory of Mary Moore Arns 1987.183



Edward S. Curtis, an ambitious commercial photographer in Seattle, recorded the vestiges of what he conceived as a "vanished race." Over time he compiled The North American Indian, a 723-image survey of the customs, habitats, and dress of North American Indians. Curtis saw tribal life through a veil of cultural preconceptions that sometimes led him to introduce false costumes and artifacts into his so-called documentations. The mythic "Indians" that issued from these interventions were further removed from reality by the use of soft-focus lenses and retouching to add highlights or delete attributes that Curtis considered un-Indian. His haunting images of North American life might thus be considered within the framework of pictorialism, rather than of documentation.

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