The panel will reassess the contribution of photographer and filmmaker Edward S. Curtis to the early 20th century history of visual anthropology and to related debates about the relationship of anthropology and aesthetics.
The twenty volumes and portfolios of Edward Curtis's The North American Indian (1907-30) constitute one of the most ambitious works of photography and of ethnography ever undertaken. Yet a serious consideration of Curtis's contribution to visual anthropology is largely missing from the proliferating disciplinary interest in visual anthropology's early history. Recent scholarly reassessments of Curtis's work have moved away from Postcolonial critiques of his project and have relocated the work in new cultural, aesthetic and ethical frameworks. The panel will bring together scholars who have made leading contributions to this reassessment: Mick Gidley (author of Edward Curtis and The North American Indian [CUP]); Shamoon Zamir (author of The Gift of the Face: Portraiture and Time in Edward Curtis [University of North Carolina]); and Brad Evans (co-editor of a new volume of essays on Curtis and his early ethnographic film and co-director of the team responsible for the film's recent restoration). One or two other panelists may be added.