Original platinum print photograph, signed by Curtis in ink to lower right corner. Seattle: The Curtis Studio, 1905. Photograph measures 19.5x14.7cm. Mounted on brown paper with deckled edges, 34x25cm. Bottom left corner of photograph has a blind stamp stating Copyrighted 1905/ By E.S. Curtis along with a blind stamp on the mount stating The Curtis Studio Seattle. Written in pencil on the verso is Sioux, Shot in Face. Fine.
During our research, we were unable to locate a copper plate created for this gorgeous photograph and therefore can strongly assume that it was not published in The North American Indian or its associated portfolios. In our opinion, that makes this photograph all the more rare and desirable.
Most recently, this photograph was part of a collection owned by photographer and collector Jay Stock. Stock also photographed North American Indians throughout his 60-year career and, although he passed in 2019, recently had an exhibit at the Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center called “Visions of Our Native American Heritage”.
Edward Sheriff Curtis, photographer and ethnologist, was best known for his photographs and documentation of the North American Indian during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Curtis worked for 30 years to complete The North American Indian, a 20-volume study of over 100 tribes with over 2,000 photographs. This extensive endeavor was dubbed by the New York Times to be “the most ambitious enterprise in publishing since the production of the King James Bible.” Over the years, there has been some controversy about his photographs being staged; using wigs or dress that were not generally used during the period and even taking out modern objects like clocks to show more historical renderings. The Smithsonian Magazine recognizes this and states “The photographs of Edward Curtis represent ideals and imagery designed to create a timeless vision of Native American culture at a time when modern amenities and American expansion had already irrevocably altered the Indian way of life.” Curtis must have felt as though he were racing against time to respectfully preserve and record the traditions for future generations before they vanished.