Edward Curtis is famous for photographing indigenous North American Indians in the late 1800s and early 1900s through 1930, when the Great Depression hit the United States.
Edward Curtis was given his Indian name, "Pazola Washte" (translated: Pretty Butte), from Sioux Chief Red Hawk.
Edward Curtis purchased a large 14x17-inch view camera in 1890. He was 22 years old at the time.
A year later he opened a photography studio in Seattle...his work with the Indigenous peoples spanned some 30 years.
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WEBMASTER'S NOTE ABOUT THE CURTIS CAMERA:
The "14 x 17-inch view camera" noted in your research is about a huge box-style camera that was always set on a heavy tripod.
These large "VIEW CAMERAS" are still in use today by top commercial studios because of their fine image quality, focus and distortion controls — as a matter of fact — this is also the kind of camera Ansel Adams used.
These cameras are used with a large black cloth or curtain that attached to the camera back to help shield light from the ground glass / focusing screen to allow the photographer to see the faint projected image on the glass (reversed and upside down) so the scene can be composed and focused.
The "14x17 inch" in the Curtis camera is referring to the size of its actual film negative, or its imageable area.
In the late 1800s, the light-sensitive negative material would have to be mixed in a field darkroom, a process that required total darkness.
The photographer would have to actually mix and then paint the negative material onto glass plates to create usable "film."
Then the huge glass plates would then have to be loaded into dark film holders and placed in the camera, exposed, and then developed in their field darkrooms.
Further, all the chemicals and solutions would need protection from the heat and elements and the glass film plates protected on the bumpy trails.
So you know, it was actually a truly great feat to do what Edward Curtis did in the wild west — to get access and cooperation from the Indians and setup the pictorial scenes — and then have his negatives survive the trail....