Edward S. Curtis. The North American Indian
Special Exhibition Mai 10, 2019 through November 1, 2020
Native Americans used to call him the «Shadow Catcher». He captured their images, and some suspected, their spirits as well. For a while, Edward S. Curtis was considered America's most famous photographer, portraying America's most influential men, such as Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan. But it was not the rich and powerful who drew his attention most.
A Work of Superlatives
Beginning in 1896, Edward Sheriff Curtis dedicated more than 30 years of his life to what was to become his passion and obsession – the creation of a photographic mon-ument for the North American indigenous population, the «Vanishing Races» which, during the early 1900s, were expected to soon disappear. Curtis's oeuvre is outstand-ing in many ways. To date it is said to be not only the largest, most expensive and most time-consuming photographic project ever undertaken, but also the most pho-tographically accomplished and influential record of its time. In 1907 the New York Herald called it "The most gigantic undertaking since the making of the King James edition of the Bible.", and in 2016 Time Magazine rated Curtis's famous picture 'The Vanishing Race' among the 100 most influential photographs of all times.
The exhibition aims at telling a story which few people in Switzerland have heard before. It will explore a seemingly simple story from different angles – with multime-dia installations, indigenous perspectives and a changing selection of original Curtis photogravures. The North American Indian is not only a story of achievement and superlatives, it is also a story of controversies and changing attitudes, of expectations towards and treatment of photography and last but not least, of intercultural encounters and the powers inherent in the process of taking pictures.
The original photogravures on display testify to the outstanding quality of Curtis's photographic work. All original pieces, 80 photogravures and 2 volumes, are on loan from Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, Germany. J.P Morgan studied at Georgia Augusta University in 1856. One year before his death in 1909, he donated money to the university library. Also a complete set of The North American Indian was donated to the library at a later time – one of very few full sets in European institutions. Due to conservation regulations, the originals will be ex-changed four times during the exhibition.
The Exhibition will be in German. An English translation will be available