Mountain Hawk Fine Art
Paul Unks of Mountain Hawk Fine Art is the only master printer in the world today authentically producing Edward Curtis’ original photographs as he did — as intaglio copper plate photogravures, as well as custom sized and framed gold tones.
Edward Curtis became one of the 20th century’s most famous photographers. Today he is remembered for his twenty-volume masterpiece, The North American Indian, a publication so huge in scope and content that it took nearly three decades to complete.
Paul Unks began studying Curtis’ work in 1970, when, as a freshman in photojournalism at the University of Missouri, he admired the photography and the cultural record. In 1995 while teaching at the University of Denver, and visiting the university’s Penrose Library later, he discovered not just “some original Curtis prints,” but a pristine, complete edition of Edward Curtis’ The North American Indian.
Unks understood that most of Curtis’ original glass negatives had been destroyed and efforts to digitally create new prints from aging originals had met limited success. The portfolio’s original copper photogravure plates, badly stored, were so deteriorated that quality reprinting, even with the right paper and inks, was impossible.
Studying the University of Denver edition, Unks realized it represented the last best opportunity for Curtis’ The North American Indian to survive. His obsession had found him.
His obsession is not just to assure Curtis’ portfolios survive or to preserve methods creating beautiful and accurate images, he now regularly meets with Native organizations and schools sharing his discoveries and helping descendants of Curtis’ subjects discover their ancestors and ancestral ways. Unks also “repatriates,” he gives each descendant he encounters a print of their ancestor.
Unks is now working on his own book recounting his journey with Curtis’ work and sharing his stories of the descendants of Curtis’ Native American Indian subjects, to increase understanding and appreciation of his photographs.
In the first portfolio of The North American Indian, Curtis wrote that medicine men believed, “…when all the ceremonies are forgotten, the world will cease to exist.”
Edward Curtis and Paul Unks have ensured that those ceremonies will never be forgotten by the North American Indian, or by the world.
Mountain Hawk Fine Art has exclusive rights to a complete, wonderfully conditioned 20-folio and 20-text volume set of Edward Curtis’ original 19th-century photographs of Native America. Stored in a climate-controlled vault at the University of Denver since 1938, this set of beautiful photographs is one of the best original source of Curtis’ work available today.