• The North American Indian Reframed: The Photography of Edward S. Curtis in Context with American Art and Visual Culture

      Ivey, Paul E.; Teemant, Marie Elizabeth; Widdifield, Stacie G.; Busbea, Larry D. (The University of Arizona., 2016)
      The purpose of this thesis is to examine the photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis and his primary photographic body of work, The North American Indian, within the context of the art and visual culture that informed and influenced Curtis in his image making process. Within the history of photography, an understanding of who Curtis was is complex. Depictions of Curtis have included various roles including photographer, businessman, philanthropist, artist, ethnologist, capitalist, and profiteer. Until the last twenty years, much of the scholarship surrounding Curtis was focused on his biography, without consideration to the similarities Curtis's work had to contemporary photographers or to American art depicting Native Americans prior to him. My research will examine this prior scholarship and focus on two different frameworks The North American Indian fits into in terms of how the Native subjects are depicted. The first framework is within the influential artwork of American painters and the Native American as incorporated into American art. I will compare Curtis's depiction of Native Americans to those by Benjamin West, Thomas Cole, and George Catlin. All three of these painters included Native Americans in their work at varying levels and for various purposes. While Curtis was working in a different medium, the ways in which he framed and posed his subjects exhibits his awareness in continuing the expected Native American image. The second framework considers The American Indian and its parallels to missionary albums (used to promote missionary work among non-Christian people) as well as a Carlisle School yearbook (used to promote the school's mission in educating and acclimating its students from tribes across the country). In addition to the three types of objects being created in the first two decades of the twentieth century, they also share a relationship through the use of photographs and words to convey a meaning the images alone could not accomplish. Native Americans have been used to symbolize the American continent since the first Europeans laid claim to the land. Curtis is only one of many artists who turned their attention to native subjects and attempted to create an understanding of who they were. A more nuanced understanding of Curtis and his work surfaces through acknowledging the ways in which The North American Indian functions similarly to other works depicting Native Americans.