Like many ethnographers (people who study cultures) of his day, Curtis thought the most truthful depiction of Indian customs and languages were "pure" ones that showed no evidence of contact with Anglo culture. Thus, Curtis often dressed his subjects (some of whom he paid) in "Indian" clothing, gave them props, and removed from photographs objects of Anglo culture, such as automobiles and tourists.

Curtis was also an artist. He carefully posed his subjects and dramatically used light, shadow and clouds.

In a Peigan Lodge #2 In a Piegan Lodge #1
"In a Piegan Lodge," Montana, 1911. These two prints are made from the same negative. In the photo on the bottom Curtis removed the clock in the printing process.