The Image Taker (ISBN 978-1-933316-70-3) by Hausman and Kapoun on


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The Image Taker: The Selected Stories
and Photographs of Edward S. Curtis
editor: Gerald Hausman & Bob Kapoun
foreword by: Joe Medicine Crow
Subject(s): Grade level / Lexile:

American Indian

8 – 9 / Lexile measure: 1070L

Format: Size / page count:


8" × 10" / 192 pages

ISBN: Date available:


Available now




The photographs and stories of the Plains Indians recorded by Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) transport the reader back through time to a world that no longer exists. His work acts as a bridge between generations and allows readers to experience firsthand the life of the Indians of North America.

Between 1889 and 1930, Curtis traveled throughout North America photographing and recording the stories and experiences of the last generation of Indians from the “Buffalo Days” before the move towards the Reservations. Beginning in 1907, he gradually published his 20-volume masterwork, The North American Indian. Today copies of The North American Indian are usually found in museums.

The Image Taker features nearly 200 photographs, rarely seen before in print from The North American Indian, alongside the history, myths, and legends of 26 tribal nations.


  • National Best Books 2010 Awards Finalist for “Multicultural Non-Fiction”
  • Winner of the Gold Midwest Book Award for “Culture”
  • Winner of the Silver Midwest Book Award for “History/Current Events”
  • Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist for “History”

Reviews (hide/show)

“[Curtis] is a close observer, whose qualities of mind and body fit him to make his observations out in the field, surrounded by the wildlife he commemorates. He has lived on intimate terms with many different tribes of the mountains and the plains. He knows them as they hunt, as they travel, as they go about their various avocations on the march and in the camp. He knows their medicine men and sorcerers, their chiefs and warriors, their young men and maidens. He has not only seen their vigorous outward existence, but has caught glimpses, such as few white men ever catch, into that strange spiritual and mental life of theirs, from whose innermost recesses all white men are forever barred. Mr. Curtis, in publishing this book, is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our own people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere.”
President Theodore Roosevelt, on The North American Indian
“Photographs that recall the long-ago days have their own special value because they help us remember our connection to virgin nature. We cannot return to the olden-days, but the wisdom provided by seeing photographs of our old-timers and hearing their stories helps us to live in today’s fast-paced world. This book provides that wisdom.”
Joe Medicine Crow, from the "Foreword"
“Edward Sheriff Curtis’ The North American Indian was a truly magnificent effort to record a vast amount of very many of these aboriginal cultures. [It] is a monument in words and pictures to a range of cultures which most white men could not or would not see.”
Mick Gidley, Professor of American Literature, School of English, University of Leeds, England
“Edward S. Curtis’s photographs speak of a noble truth and beauty of a bygone age. His fame as a photographer overshadows the fact that Curtis also recorded the precious testimony of many tribal elders who lived the nomadic life before the reservation period. The combination of enduring photographs presented with the sacred knowledge of old-timers makes The Image Taker an essential volume for anyone interested in American Indian culture and history, be they casual reader or serious student. This is an exceptional book.”
Michael Fitzgerald, editor of Indian Spirit: Revised and Enlarged, and The Spirit of Indian Women
“Featuring an informative foreword by Joe Medicine Crow, The Image Taker: Selected Stories and Photographs of Edward S. Curtis is a visually impressive 177-page paperback edition of the pictures, stories and lore of many North American Native American tribes. Divided into areas including the Southwest, Plains, Plateau, Northwest Coast, and Northernmost Coast, chapters cover hundreds of sepia photographs of Native American subjects taken between 1895 and 1926.

“Photographs and stories of over 80 native American tribes and sub-tribes west of the Misssissippi River are presented. The stories are taken from Curtis' monolithic, 20 volume work, The North American Indian, with 20 accompanying portfolios. One important fact to note about The Image Taker is that the photographs chosen for it were frequently not previously chosen for publication because they were in bound volumes that were difficult to reproduce. So here we have essentially fresh photographs of high artistic and historic quality and value re-presented with edited text from a classic encyclopedia of tribal history, lore, mythology, and stories. Additional helpful information is presented in a two page chronology of the life of Edward Curtis, plus sources and notes (from The North American Indian) of the twelve main chapter areas, and an added bibliography.

The Image Taker presents a treasured sampling of text and photographs from over 30 years of Curtis' work as a documentarian of Native American history. It is an invaluable resource to both scholars and those interested in Native American cultural enrichment studies and heritage.”
Midwest Book Review
The Image Taker: The Selected Stories And Photographs Of Edward S. Curtis is a pick for any Native American library: it covers the stories and photos of Edward Curtis gathered from his 20-volume The North American Indian, The Image Taker opus, packing nearly two hundred photos—many rarely seen in print—along with the images and myths of the 26 tribal nations. Any arts library strong in Native American history, culture and representation needs this.”
The Bookwatch Review
“All of this wonder and delight [of first seeing Curtis’s work years ago] returned to me when I opened The Image Taker, a new collection of Edward S. Curtis’s photographs and writings edited by Gerald Hausman and Bob Capoun. However, beyond returning me to the sheer inspiration of Curtis’s photography, this book revealed that these images are a vital link to the pre-modern world of the American Indian.…

“While there have been numerous collections of Curtis’s work, The Image Taker makes two significant contributions to Curtis’s studies.

“First, most of the photographs in The Image Taker have either not been reproduced since their appearance in The North American Indian, or they are previously unpublished. So, there are indeed some old favorites in The Image Taker, like the ‘Tablita Woman Dancer’ with her enigmatic smile and mask-like headdress or the classic portrait of Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé. However, there are many new images to engage even the most avid Curtis collector. For instance, there is the picture taken just before ‘Watching the Dancers,’ the image that has intrigued me since childhood. Entitled ‘On a Housetop,’ it shows two of the Hopi women on the roof, while two are standing the stone stairway’s base. One of the women on the roof has turned her face to the camera. To see this beloved photographic moment extended in time is a sheer joy.

The Imager Taker’s other contribution is its rare inclusion of Curtis’s renderings of the myths and legends told to him by tribal elders. As editor Gerald Hausman writes, “Today it is impossible to hear the voices that Curtis heard. The best we can do is to read and share what he recorded from people whose memories stretched far back into ancestral time.” Curtis also wrote histories of each American Indian tribe he photographed, and several of these are strongly critical of U.S. government policy towards indigenous people.

“When Europeans colonized the western hemisphere, the transformation of American Indian culture was inevitable. The value of books like The Image Taker is that they provide a bridge to what was lost. Joe Medicine Crow remembers when Curtis came to Crow territory. He states in his introduction to The Image Taker, “We cannot return to the olden-days, but the wisdom provided by seeing photographs of our old-timers and hearing their stories helps us live in today’s fast-paced world. This book provides that wisdom.”
John Nizalowski, from a review in Inside/Outside Southwest magazine
“Another book on Edward S. Curtis? Admirers of the famed photographer may wonder what is left to say about his remarkable legacy. But while reviewing The Image Taker one discovers there is a great deal more to the Curtis story than his iconic Native American images, and much of it was written by Curtis himself.

“Though he is celebrated almost exclusively as a photographer, the importance of Curtis’ work as a historian and anthropologist should not be overlooked. In addition to the images he captured that deepened our understanding of the West, he also collected many of the tribal histories, myths, and legends of the Native Americans he photographed.

“These tales have been collected by editors Gerald Hausman and Bob Kapoun to illuminate a collection of more than 180 Curtis photographs. As one gazes into the steely eyes of a Lakota Sioux man or the beautiful smile of a Navajo woman, the inclusion of their tribal history and creation beliefs adds resonance to the sepia-toned photographs.

“Most of the images in the book were taken not from the photographer’s familiar portfolio collections, but from his 20-volume masterwork, The North American Indian. Many have not been republished in decades. So this work will be a worthy addition to the library of even the most ardent fan.”
David Hofstede, in a review in Cowboys & Indians Magazine
“For more than 30 years, famed photographer and amateur ethnographer Edward S. Curtis traveled the West photographing Native Americans and their communities. Over the years he captured more than 40,000 images, and documented the remembrances of what he described as 'one of the greatest races of mankind'; many of these photos and writings can be found in his canonical 20-volume work, The North American Indian.

“A collection of selections from this masterwork, The Image Taker features 181 rarely seen photographs alongside Curtis’s own writings about the histories, myths, and legends of the 26 tribes and nations portrayed, including New Mexico’s Tewa, Tiwa, Keres, Zuni, Apache, and Navajo peoples. Of Curtis’s body of work, one of the book’s co-editors, Tesuque resident Gerald Hausman, notes, 'Some readers may not know that Curtis was so dedicated that he returned to a tribal site as many as 10 times in the same number of years in order to gather the best possible story. He was one man trying to do the work of an institution. What he left behind is much more than a moccasin print, it is the light and shadow of an unrecoverable past.' This collection is chock-full of Curtis’s signature brand of stunning portraits, as well as insightful writing that captures many slices of history.”
New Mexico Magazine
“Outstanding photographs and stories of Native American culture. It really gets to the soul of the cultures.”
Midwest Book Award Judging Panel

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