Edward Curtis's Photography Techniques and the Preservation of a Way of Life: Background information when reading Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis

by Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Beyond the Book:
Edward Curtis's Photography Techniques and the Preservation of a Way of Life

Edward Curtis, with the help of his assistants in his Seattle studio, produced photogravure prints - over 40,000 of the North American Indian alone. The elaborate process produced sepia pictures with soft glowing tones.

The photogravure process, which really took off in the late nineteenth century, is widely considered as elevating photography to an art form. The process involves three basic steps: capturing the subject on film; creating an etched copper plate of the captured image and running off prints from this etched copper plate. The copper plate that is used as the base for prints is etched at different depths depending on the amount of darkness in the picture. The result is that darker portions of a picture create deeper etches in the plate. When the plate is inked and prints run off, deeper portions hold more ink and so the print that results is one that is an accurate reproduction of the original. For each sepia print that Curtis made using this process, the corresponding ...

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