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Books  >>  History

Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

Timothy Egan Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher The Epic Life And Immortal Photographs Of Edward
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How a lone man’s epic obsession led to one of America’s greatest cultural treasures: Prizewinning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history — and the driven, brilliant man who made them.
 
Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.

An Indiana Jones with a camera, Curtis spent the next three decades traveling from the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Acoma on a high mesa in New Mexico to the Salish in the rugged Northwest rain forest, documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took tremendous perseverance — ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian.

His most powerful backer was Theodore Roosevelt, and his patron was J. P. Morgan. Despite the friends in high places, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis photogravures bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary. In the end he fulfilled his promise: He made the Indians live forever.

* A New York Times Notable Book *An Amazon Best Book * A Publishers Weekly Best Book * A Christian Science Monitor Best Book

 

""In this hauntingly beautiful book, Egan brings Curtis to life as vividly and with as much depth, heart and understanding as Curtis himself put into his timeless portraits. This is a story for the ages.""  --Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

 

""An obsessive genius neglects his personal life and business matters to pursue a great white whale. It's a familiar tale and the essential narrative of Egan's terrific biography. . . . Egan fills his chronicle with bright turns of phrase and radiant descriptions . . . A sweeping tale about two vanishing ways of life."" -- Wall Street Journal

 

""A stirring and affectionate portrait of an underknown figure."" -- The New York Times Book Review

 

""Short Nights is not only the marvelous and rollicking account of life of one of America's extraordinary photographers. It is also a book about the extreme personal cost of outsized ambition. Egan has found yet another great subject, and has crafted yet another great narrative around it."" -- S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon

 

""In this extraordinary biography, Tim Egan has revealed a great American adventurer who lived at the fragile, fertile intersection of history, anthropology, and art."" --Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder

""A vivid exploration of one man's lifelong obsession with an idea . . .Egan's spirited biography might just bring [Curtis] the recognition that eluded him in life."" -- Washington Post ""Egan is a muscular storyteller and his book is a rollicking page-turner with a colorfully drawn hero."" -- San Francisco Chronicle

""A stunning portrait of Edward Curtis that captures every patina of his glory, brilliance, and pathos."" -- Christian Science Monitor

 

""Egan brings liveliness and a wealth of detail to his biography of the legendary photographer . . . A riveting biography."" - Boston Globe


""Insightful and entetaining . . . Egan's excellent book stands as a fitting tribute to an American original who fought for a people with his camera and his art."" -- Los Angeles Times


""[A] captivating tribute to a treasured American and the treasures he created.""-- Dallas Morning News

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