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Curtis employed a variety of photographic processes.

Waihusiwa – A Zuni Kyaqimassi, 1903

PHOTOGRAVURES | The vast majority of his prints, approximately 98%, were printed as photogravures, and virtually all them were produced for The North American Indian. Curtis used two standard sizes, 5 x 7″ (or reverse), and approximately 12 x 16″ (or reverse). He favored three hand-made papers: Japanese Vellum, Dutch “Van Gelder,” and Japanese “Tissue,” also known as India Proof Paper.

PLATINUM PRINTS | Curtis created a body of platinum prints, comprising of 1/4–1/2 of one percent of his extant body of work, which vary in size from approximately 4 x 5″ to 24 x 32″. Platinum prints larger than 12 x 16″ are scarce. Varying paper weights and surfaces were employed.


A Zuni Girl, 1903

Wisham Fisherman

GOLDTONE PRINTS | Curtis’ wide variety of silver prints were most frequently goldtones, orotones or “curt-tones”. These comprise approximately one-fourth to one half of one percent of his extant work. In size they range from 4 x 5”, called a salesman’s sample, to 18 x 22”. The larger sizes are extremely rare. Based on current data, goldtones used a gelatin silver emulsion, which was suspended on glass (vs. paper), and after development were backed with gold-hued bronzing powders. Curtis’ goldtone prints are virtually always framed in one of several original frames styles, most typically in a “bat-wing” style gesso and compo over wood.



GELATIN SILVER PRINTS | Curtis also created paper-based gelatin silver prints for sale and/or exhibitions. They are virtually always sepia toned, and more rare than platinum prints or orotones. There is a small body of warm-toned gelatin silver prints, which incorporate a barely discernible screen pattern, therefore often confused with platinum prints. His untoned, gelatin silver prints or “reference prints” generally have a semi-glossy or glossy surface and are typically approximately 6 x 8″ image size on slightly larger, single-weight paper.



An Oasis in the Badlands – Sioux, 1905

A Walpi Man, 1900

GOLDTONE PAPER PRINTS | Curtis’ goldtone paper prints are extremely rare and were produced principally in 1899 and 1900. He used a single weight paper, adding goldtones during the printing-out process. They are marked by their fine grain structure, sharp resolution, and russety sepia tone. The majority are approximately 12 x 16″ (or reverse) in size.

CYANOTYPES | Cyanotypes are prints that are blue-hued during the printing-out process. Curtis created a large body of cyanotypes, presumably, virtually all of his 40,000+ negatives were initially printed as cyanotypes, however, few of them survived.

Red Plume – Piegan, 1905

An Oasis in the Badlands – Sioux ,1905  – Hand-colored Platinum

HAND-COLORED PLATINUM PRINTS | An extremely small body of hand-colored gelatin silver and platinum photographs exist. The coloring was done with watercolors and oils. Other experimental prints appear to have employed a gum process and/or ink. A small body of Curtis’ lantern slides still exist, some of which are hand-colored.

BLUE-TONE GELATIN SILVER PRINTS | Between 1916–1930, Curtis produced a series of blue-toned silver prints known under the names of the “Aphrodite Series” and “Hollywood Stills.” These should not be confused with his cyanotypes.

Female Nude, c.1925 • Blue-toned Silver Gelatin