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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Library displays American Indian photos through Oct. 24

Photographs by Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1954), one of the most influential documentarians of American Indian life, customs and folklore, are now on display through Sunday, Oct. 24, in the main exhibition gallery of Firestone Library .

The exhibition, "The North American Indian: Photographs by Edward Curtis, 1895-1927," commemorates the 50th anniversary of Curtis' death. Although his sepia-toned portraits of American Indians are widely familiar, the self-taught Curtis was largely forgotten until a revival in the 1970s popularized his work.

The Friends of the Princeton University Library will sponsor two films in conjunction with the exhibition. "Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians" (2000) will be screened at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, in 106 McCormick Hall. Curtis' own film "In the Land of the War Canoes" (1914) will be shown at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, in the Frist Campus Center theater.

In 1901, Curtis conceived of a monumental project to chronicle the heritage of rapidly disappearing American Indian tribes. The project he initially believed would take five years to complete ultimately consumed three decades of Curtis' life, during which he took more than 40,000 photographs and visited more than 80 tribes. His efforts culminated in "The North American Indian (1907-1930)," a 20-volume work organized by tribe and area from the Great Plains to Alaska.

On display in the library exhibition will be two dozen photographic plates that feature the variety of dwellings created by various Indian tribes west of the Allegheny Mountains. Of particular interest are the materials used for construction -- including animal skins, grass, sticks, mesquite and stone -- and the intriguing ways in which they were adapted.

Also included will be pictures of Curtis in the field and commentary about the significance and innovation of his photography. Curtis was among the first photographers to manipulate his images by altering negatives, reducing the depth of field with a large aperture, and adopting the tight cropping and full-face or profile formats characteristic of ethnographic photography. His mastery and concern with creating photographs that are works of art distinguished him from his contemporaries.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays (and until 8 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Sept. 15), and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. For more information, call (609) 258-3184.

Contact: Eric Quinones (609) 258-3601

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