PHOTO FINISH: Unseen images from an epic exploration of Alaska Native culture are finally seeing the light
September 16, 2021
MUSKEGON, Mich.-- Faces framed with thick fur, and adorned with traditional vertical-line chin tattoos. Kayak-makers concentrating on their craft. Mountainside island dwellings teetering on the skinniest of stilts.
These glimpses into Alaska Native culture were captured in 1927, when photographer Edward Curtis traveled to Nome and the Bering Sea to visually and journalistically chronicle the lives and customs of the Indigenous people of areas including Little Diomede Island, King Island, Nunivak Island, Hooper Bay, King Island, and Cape Prince of Wales.
In collaboration with the tribes who welcomed him into their communities, posed for him, and shared stories, language, songs, and traditions, Curtis composed myriad photogravures while in Alaska, many of which are included in The Alaskan Eskimo, the 20th and final volume of Curtis' epic life's work: The North American Indian.