Expert on Edward S. Curtis photography in Vail
VAIL – Appreciation for the photography of Edward S. Curtis has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance over the past three decades, a movement in which Christopher Cardozo has been integrally involved. Cardozo is now widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on Curtis’ photographs and owns the world’s most broad-ranging Curtis collection. He visits Vail Saturday.
Cardozo was so captivated by Curtis’ powerful imagery that he began collecting Curtis’ prints within hours of seeing originals for the first time in 1973. Since then he has spent tens of thousands of hours buying and selling Curtis prints and researching, curating and lecturing on Curtis. Cardozo is a consultant/curator for many private Curtis collections as well as public institutions, including the J. Pierpont Morgan Library. Mr. Cardozo has also produced a dramatic screenplay on Curtis’ life, and is the Founder of the Edward S. Curtis Foundation. The Foundation is beginning the development of a museum devoted to the work of Edward Curtis.Cardozo unwittingly began to follow in Cutis’ footsteps when he first photographed a very isolated Middle American Indian tribe in 1972-73 while living with a small Indian tribe in the Sierra Madres in southwestern Mexico. A short time later, a friend recognized the striking similarity between Cardozo’s work and the photographs of Curtis. Until that point, Cardozo had never heard of Curtis or seen his work. Cardozo’s own photographs of Native Meso-Americans, which led him initially to his discovery of Curtis, have been widely exhibited and are found in numerous public and private collections, including the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
About Edward S. Curtis
Although unknown for many years, Edward S. Curtis is today one of the most well-recognized and celebrated photographers of Native people. Born near White Water, Wisc., on February 16, 1868, he became interested in the emerging art of photography when he was quite young, building his first camera when he was still an adolescent. In Seattle, where his family moved in 1887, he acquired part interest in a portrait photography studio and soon became sole owner of the successful business, renaming it Edward S. Curtis Photographer and Photoengraver.In the mid 1890s, Curtis began photographing local Puget Sound Native Americans digging for clams and mussels on the tide flats. One of his earliest models was Princess Angeline, the aged daughter of Sealth, the Suquamish chief after whom Seattle was named. Later, as an official photographer of the 1899 Harriman Expedition, Curtis documented the geological features of the Alaskan wilderness as well as its indigenous population. This was a pivotal experience for Curtis and greatly increased his interest in Native cultures. He visited tribal communities in Montana and Arizona and began in earnest to photograph many other Native Americans in the West, spending more time in the field and less time in his studio.In the early years of the 20th century, Curtis embarked on a thirty-year mission which he described as an effort “to form a comprehensive and permanent record of all the important tribes of the United States and Alaska that still retain to a considerable degree their … customs and traditions.” Along with most scholars of this period, he believed that indigenous communities would inevitably be absorbed into white society, losing their unique cultural identities. He wanted to create a scholarly and artistic work that would document the ceremonies, beliefs, customs, daily life, and leaders of these groups before they “vanished.” The North American Indian project, Curtis decided, would be a set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with high quality photoengravings taken from his glass plate negatives. Each of these volumes would be accompanied by a portfolio of large size photogravures, elegantly bound in leather and printed on the highest quality paper. To fund the enormous project, Curtis would sell subscriptions to five hundred sets of the publication.