Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago

In the early 1900s, Seattle-based photographer Edward S. Curtis embarked on a project of epic scale, to travel the western United States and document the lives of Native Americans still untouched by Western society. Curtis secured funding from J.P. Morgan, and visited more than 80 tribes over the next 20 years, taking more than 40,000 photographs, 10,000 wax cylinder recordings, and huge volumes of notes and sketches. The end result was a 20-volume set of books illustrated with nearly 2,000 photographs, titled "The North American Indian." In the hundred-plus years since the first volume was published, Curtis's depictions have been both praised and criticized. The sheer documentary value of such a huge and thorough project has been celebrated, while critics of the photography have objected to a perpetuation of the myth of the "noble savage" in stage-managed portraits. Step back now, into the early 20th century, and let Edward Curtis show you just a few of the thousands of faces he viewed through his lens.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • David Clapp / Getty

    New Mexico: Images of the Land of Enchantment

    A few glimpses of New Mexico’s landscape, and some of the animals and people calling it home

  • Mahmud Hams / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Pride Lights, Paddy Day, Grizzly Swim

    A new waterslide in the Czech Republic, a cat on the Algerian waterfront, a grotto reopening in Italy, burying a coronavirus victim in Russia, a wildfire in Colorado, and much more

  • Steve Helber / AP

    The Statues Brought Down Since the George Floyd Protests Began

    Images of some of the dozens of statues that have been toppled, defaced, or slated for removal across the U.S. over the past month

  • Shahid Ali / AFP / Getty

    Photos: The Locust Swarms of 2020

    Images from hard-hit areas in Kenya, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Yemen, taken over recent months