Gallery Views of The American Indian Image: Photographs by Edward S. Curtis and Zig Jackson

February 7-May 30, 2010
East Wing, Photography Galleries

This exhibition features the outstanding efforts of two gifted photographers working nearly a century apart. Edward S. Curtis spent 28 years creating a vast body of romanticized images based on the prevailing beliefs that indigenous people were doomed to extinction. His nostalgic, sentimental rendering of the subject matter was dependent on Pictorialism, the then-dominant aesthetic photographic style that features idealized imagery and a reliance on soft focus, natural light, and negative and positive print manipulation. The North American Indian, Curtis's landmark project, has been both praised and repudiated. Ethnologists have criticized Curtis for staging and manipulating his images and misrepresenting Native American peoples and cultures by depicting them within early 20th century stereotypes.

The Native American Zig Jackson presents the world of contemporary American Indians in his straightforward observant pictures created over the past two decades. Raised on a reservation in North Dakota, Jackson is a member of the associated Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations; his Indian name is Rising Buffalo. Since the late 1980s, he has traveled around the country photographing in places that have special meaning to Native Americans. His distinctive, insightful images explore cultural identity, representation, and appropriation as he seeks to debunk the myths in his own history and to break down the stereotypes of American Indians propagated by the popular media and folklore.

This exhibition offers the rare opportunity to reflect on the human and spiritual implications underlying each photographer's body of work, created from different cultural perspectives.


Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this exhibition with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.