Want Edward Curtis’s Original Glass Negatives from the American West?

These photogravures of Edward S. Curtis should especially be fascinating for print enthusiasts, photography historians, and patrons of old school photographic processes.

Looking for the next fine art print to display in your home, office, or workspace? We found a project you’ll surely want to support. The Curtis Legacy Foundation is keen on producing photogravures from the remastered original negatives of Edward S. Curtis, an American photographer, and ethnologist best known for his work on the American West and the Native American people. To make this happen, the foundation, led by John Graybill, one of Curtis’ great-grandchildren, is currently funding the project on Kickstarter.

The campaign comes just months after the Curtis Legacy Foundation was created in January 2019. As part of its goal to continue Edward Curtis’ dream to “bring the history, knowledge, and understanding of the Native American culture to the world,” the foundation decided to put photogravure prints of his work up for sale. These prints will be made using three of the original glass plate negatives still owned by the family.

Through this Kickstarter offer, the foundation hopes to make Curtis’s work accessible to more collectors and photography enthusiasts. As vintage originals can cost between $3,000 to $100,000, these photos are often out of range for many people and can only be viewed through museums and private collections. Their goal is to produce a total of 60 photogravure prints, which will essentially be the best reproduction quality available at present, at a much more reasonable price. While there are other reproductions out there, these are often of lesser quality or copies of original prints.

The campaign also noted that the photogravures will be made from “remastered originals.” This means that the imperfections on the image have been digitally cleaned up and they worked with the subtleties of the negative to obtain the best and most vibrant reproduction possible while staying faithful to Curtis’ original intent.

For those who are wondering what a “photogravure” is, the foundation briefly described how it’s done:

“Digital (direct to plate) photopolymer gravure printing is done using a photopolymer plate which is printed on directly bypassing the traditional film overlay, resulting in a high-quality plate that can reproduce the detailed continuous tones of a photograph. These types of prints are individually printed… one… at… a… time.  Roll on ink—wipe to the right amount of ink—run through the press—wipe the plate totally clean—start inking all over again.”

You can also read more about the process here.

Print enthusiasts and collectors will be especially interested in these photogravures, as the foundation noted that the archival value is substantially longer than silver-gelatin and current photographic processes.

Want to know more about the project, as well as the stories behind the photos featured in this campaign? Head to the Kickstarter page for more details and make your pledge for the photogravure of your choice.


Photos from the Kickstarter campaign by Curtis Legacy Foundation