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Zig Jackson, Camera in Face, Taos, New Mexico, 1992, ink-jet print, 14 1/4 × 19 1/2". From the series, “Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indian,” 1991–92.

“Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy: Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, and Will Wilson”

Portland Art Museum

Zig Jackson, Camera in Face, Taos, New Mexico, 1992, ink-jet print, 14 1/4 × 19 1/2". From the series, “Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indian,” 1991–92.

Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952) gets a bad rap for a variety of imperialist sins: sentimentalizing his American Indian subjects by posing them in antiquated costumes, deleting signs of contemporary culture from his frames, accepting funding from the arch-capitalist magnate J. P. Morgan, and generally promulgating the romantic objectifications of the hegemonic, colonizing mind. However, a closer look at Curtis’s life and work makes this judgment hard to square. In addition to tirelessly documenting a vast population of marginalized people against the backdrop of genocide, he spent his life recording endangered indigenous languages, petitioning for American Indian rights, and arguing for natives’ religious freedom. He penned the first revisionist theory of the Battle of Little Bighorn (by a white man, anyway), with Custer, at last, cast as the true villain he was.

But Curtis remains

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