Read Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan Free Online
Book Title: Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher|
The author of the book: Timothy Egan
Edition: Mariner Books
Date of issue: January 1st 2012
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.88 MB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1925 times
Reader ratings: 4.1
ISBN 13: 9781299900691
Read full description of the books:
Egan is a compelling storyteller. He wove the events of Curtis's life into a cohesive narrative, a story with high stakes and heartbreak, and Curtis was rendered as a character of interest, which will be appealing to many of us who know him only as the person on the other side of the camera who created so many portraits of Native people across North America.
However, I felt that this was much too rosy a portrait of Curtis, or at least, one that does not interrogate his actions. Curtis was a non-Native man who worked tirelessly to create lasting, iconic images of Native authenticity. He wanted to preserve a race that he believed was vanishing. Indeed, we are incredibly fortunate to have these images, not because they capture "vanishing" peoples but because they allow Native peoples to see images of those who came before, people who shape our lives.
I believe it's important to acknowledge that, while these images are valuable, some of these images, as Egan writes, were posed. This was more prevalent in some regions than others. This does not make the photos worthless, but I believe Egan would have done well to linger upon this fact rather than skating past it. Curtis had something at stake in rendering Native people as static figures stuck in the past, resisting progress: not only did he hold romantic notions of tribal life (as I gathered from Egan's depiction), but he had books to sell, and the "vanishing Indian" seemed to be appealing in an oversaturated market.
To set Native people in the historic past is to turn us into museum pieces. This legacy continues today, and Curtis had a monumental role in perpetuating the idea that Indians were a vanishing people. In fact, Indians have not vanished; Native communities changed because of contact, and adopted many of the ways of the colonizers, but Native Americans have not at all vanished. It's certainly true that "fullblood" Indians have dwindled in numbers, but this hardly means that Native communities are dying out. Egan uses 2010 census data that includes only people who declare themselves to be "Indian alone" to provide the current Native American population, curiously not using the census data expanded in 2000 that allowed respondents to choose "American Indian" and another race, reflecting the inevitable truth that Native people are becoming racially mixed. However, this does not mean that we are disappearing, or less pure; tribal communities are incredibly vibrant.
Egan's unwillingness to push against this notion that ran through Curtis's life's work surprised and frustrated me. Toward the end of the book, Egan briefly acknowledges and brushes aside some of the significant criticisms of Curtis's work. I believe that it's entirely possible to appreciate a person's work and see its value while still questioning the motives and dissecting the legacy. Constantly, I work against the stereotype that Indians are museum pieces situated in the past whose best days are gone.
Egan also recounts an episode in which Curtis extracted information from an informant that led to disastrous results. I was troubled by this, because in so many communities, desperate people have taken money or goods in exchange for closely-guarded community information, and this led to bad ends in many cases. In this book, this episode seemed to be treated simply as one more part of the adventure, with no real consequences for Curtis or interrogation.
Edward Curtis made significant contributions to my community and to many others; I have to say that I love so many of his photographs, especially those that tell me where I came from. But I believe his artistic motives and legacy were complicated. He was an outsider imposing his gaze upon Native communities, and he didn't always do so responsibly. I think Egan missed out on some thrilling tension by turning this into the story of a hero and glossing over these aspects of this complicated career.
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Read information about the authorTimothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who resides in Seattle, Washington. He currently contributes opinion columns to The New York Times as the paper's Pacific Northwest correspondent.
In addition to his work with The New York Times, he has written six books, including The Good Rain, Breaking Blue, and Lasso the Wind.
Most recently he wrote "The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America" which details the Great Fire of 1910 that burned about three million acres and helped shape the United States Forest Service. The book also details some of the political issues of the time focusing on Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.
The Worst Hard Time, a non-fiction account of those who lived through The Great Depression's Dust Bowl, for which he won the 2006 Washington State Book Award in History/Biography and a 2006 National Book Award.
In 2001, he won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his contribution to the series How Race is Lived in America
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