Photographer Edward Curtis spent decades working on his magnum opus, a 20-volume set of images and anthropological research called, The North American Indian. His goal was to photograph members of every existing Native American tribe, at a time when many Indians were living in squalor on reservations, sometimes far from their original lands. Curtis was praised for his painterly images, which showed Native Americans as real live human beings. But he paid a high price for his endeavor. His marriage fell apart, he suffered bouts of depression, and when he died in 1952, obituaries barely mentioned his masterwork, which now sell for upwards of a million dollars at auction. Ryan Warner speaks to New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, author of Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.

[Edward Curtis]

[Princess Angeline. Photograph by Edward Curtis.]

[Geronimo - Apache. Photograph by Edward Curtis.]

[Chief Joseph - Nez Perce. Photograph by Edward Curtis.]