Platinum print, mercury-toned
Image: 31.5 x 41.8 cm (12 3/8 x 16 7/16 in.); Matted: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)
© E.S. Curtis
Gift of Kathryn Arns May in memory of Mary Moore Arns 1987.182
This ancestral stronghold of the Navajo Nation, from which they were exiled from 1864 to 1868, is still owned by the tribe today.
The soaring cliffs of Cañon de Chelly, one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in America, dwarf the Navajos riding in the midday Arizona sun in 1904. Edward S. Curtis’s images, though rooted in the documentary impulse, present a romanticized view of the past, one that he often staged to suggest an even earlier period. He had two sometimes-conflicting aims: to capture America’s vanishing Indigenous cultures but also to create photographic art.
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