Montana Historical Society: preserving the past through photographs

Posted at 4:37 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 18:37:42-04

At the turn of 20th century the world was fascinated with the Western frontier, and photographers like Laton Alton Huffman made sure the west was portrayed honestly and without romanticism.

Huffman – often referred to as "L.A." – is one of the influential photographers who will be recognized at a Montana Historical Society lecture this week.

Huffman arrived at Fort Keogh in the Montana Territory in 1879 – 10 years before Montana would become a state.

He opened a studio in Miles City and became known for photographing cowboys, Indians, soldiers, and the last buffalo hunting in eastern Montana.

At the time, photographers used glass panes to capture their negatives, which were brittle and difficult to transport.

Photo archivist Jeff Malcomson of the Montana Historical Society said Montanans are fortunate that more than 12,000 of the glass negatives survived.

“He got here kind of just in time to see cattle come on to the plains, the last of the buffalo, (a) lot of Native Americans," Malcomson said. "He photographed all of those right from the start. So he was kind of right at the point when the west was becoming the west in Montana.”

Huffman’s photographs showcased many aspects of Montana life from the 1880s to the 1920s.

Over the next 50 years Huffman’s photographic legacy would result in one of the most iconic and dynamic collections of Western American images.

On Thursday, April 20, the Montana Historical Society in Helena will host artist Kristi Hager, who will talk about influential historic photography in Montana, including Huffman. The event is free and will begin at 6:30 p.m. 

Click here to learn more about Huffman.