Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Edward Curtis American Indian Photograph Exhibition in Taiwan

The China Post reports on a traveling exhibition of photos of American native peoples:

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the National Taiwan Museum are co-sponsoring the exhibit, which runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 21 at the National Taiwan Museum. It will be shown around Taiwan, then in Hong Kong.

"The exhibition's staying here four months, the longest of any country on the tour," said Nick Papp, director of the AIT's American Cultural Culture. "This is because we've had a very strong response, a high level of interest in Native American culture here in Taiwan."

One reason for the heightened interest, he says, is "Curtis had an amazing ability to capture the soul and sensitivities of life in the early 1900s for American Indians," Papp said.

The other reason, he says is that "Taiwan is facing many of the same challenges as it struggles to preserve its own indigenous cultures and legacy," and "Maybe similar photographic projects can be undertaken here to help preserve the indigenous people's way of life."

"Curtis was one of the first Americans who devoted his life to cultural preservation -- basically he created an encyclopedia. In one sense, he was a pioneer in American cultural preservation," Papp said.

In 1907, Edward Curtis began an undertaking that would consume him for the next 30 years: the creation of his magnum opus, "The North American Indian," a 20-volume set of handmade books with 1,500 photos, financed in part by industrialist J.P. Morgan.

Curtis visited more than 80 tribes across the country, north into Alaska and parts of Canada. Eventually, he took more than 40,000 photographs, made over 10,000 recordings of Native language and music, produced lectures, slide shows, and a multi-media Curtis Indian Picture Opera throughout the U.S.; and in 1914 directed "In the Land of the Headhunters," an innovative, seminal film documentary on the Kwakiutl tribe.

Curtis' pictures of Native Americans between 1900 and 1930 are the most comprehensive photo-ethnographic record of the North American Indians ever created. In many cases, his material is the only recorded history in existence.

UPDATE: Don't miss additional information in the comments below.


Jay River said...

A re-creation has been made of Curtis's long lost "Indian Picture Opera" presentation.

Recent information:

Here is a film clip about Edward S. Curtis's "Indian Picture Opera" of 1911.:


It's from a dvd on Edward S. Curtis, which bears on other Indian lands as well.

More info:

ES Curtis Film Clip

The Indian Picture Opera


roentare said...

A great informative and fantastic view on the stance of Taiwan. I really enjoy the reading here

Kerim Friedman said...

It worries me that the organizers of this event seem to know very little about the actual process by which Curtis made his pictures, which included staging photos, carrying around his own bag of "traditional clothing," removing signs of modernity, etc. You can read more about this on an old post I wrote on Savage Minds. That post also contains links to Curtis' photos online. They are all freely available on the Library of Congress website.