Sheila TouseyBill Pullman
Edward Curtis (1868-1952) was a complicated, passionate, self-educated pioneer and visionary artist who rose from poverty and obscurity to become the most famous photographer of his time. He became friends with Teddy Roosevelt, got funding from J. P. Morgan, and set out in 1900 to photograph traditional Indian ways that he thought were vanishing. Curtis abandoned his career as a successful portrait photographer, and sacrificed his health, his marriage, and all of his assets to create an astonishing body of work - 10,000 recordings, twenty volumes of text, a full length motion picture with Kwakiutl people in 1914, and 40,000 photographs. In 1952 he died impoverished and forgotten. COMING TO LIGHT tells the dramatic story of Curtis' life, his creation of his monumental work, and his quest to understand and enter into the inner lives of Indian people, a quest that affected him deeply and that changed his views of the people he set out to document. Perhaps most importantly, the documentary gives Indian people a voice in the discussion of Curtis' images. Piegan, Crow, Blood, Hopi, Navajo, Cupig, Suquamish and Kwakiutl people who are descended from Curtis' photographic subjects or who are using his photographs for cultural preservation respond to his pictures, tell stories about the people in the photographs, and discuss the meaning of the images from their own perspective. Throughout the documentary, Curtis' photographs are intercut with scenes from contemporary Indian life that resonate with his pictures. His photographs reflect not only his vision, but the images Indian people had of themselves then, and that contemporary Indian people on reservations treasure today. COMING TO LIGHT presents a complex, dedicated, flawed life, and explores the ironies inherent in Curtis' story, the often controversial nature of his romantic images, and the value of his legacy today.