The Outsider and the Native Eye: The Photographs of Richard Throssel

Created by Valerie Daniels, May 2002

Introduction | The Vanishing Race | A Member of the Tribe | Professional Photographer | Resources

Professional Photographer

The Indian Service | Throssel Photocraft Co.

The Indian Service

From 1909 through 1911, Throssel took on the position of a photographer-at-large for the Indian Service, for which he was paid $1,000 a year. Initially, his job was to depict everyday life on the Crow Reservation, and to document the Crow Indians adaptation to a white, European way of life. As Albright reports, Throssel had a large amount of autonomy in this position. He was given a budget and allowed to submit his photographs to officials in Washington, D.C. when he was ready to. In addition to taking documentary photographs, Throssel also recorded Indian music and, on at least one occasion, borrowed Curtis's motion picture camera. The photo to the right, School Room, Crow Indian Reservation, 1910, was one of the series of photos that Throssel contributed to the Indian Service. Below, are several others from that body of work.


Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives
Photo no. 95-1384
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Crow Indian Camp, 1910
Lorenzo Creel Collection, Special Collections Department
University Library, University of Nevada, Reno, Photo no. 810
In Native Nations

Clan Uncles Honoring Mrs. Spotted Rabbit, 1910
Lorenzo Creel Collection, Special Collections Department
University Library, University of Nevada, Reno, Photo no. 781
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Shot in the Hand, 1910
Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives
Photo no. 4654
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Mrs. Medicine Crow (Sacred Mountain Sheep), 1910
Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives
Photo no. 4668
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer
In the summer of 1910 Throssel began to work with Dr. Ferdinand Shoemaker to prepare a series of educational slides on Indian health. These slides were part of a nationwide federal campaign to fight the spread of tuberculosis and trachoma. They were used in conjunction with lectures to teach the employees at the Indian Service's schools and agencies how to prevent these diseases. They focused on the adverse effects of certain practices, such as sharing of utensils and pipes and eating outdoors, and attempted to promote a more healthful lifestyle. Below are some images from Throssel's "Photographs of Diseased Indians."

These first three photos were juxtaposed to show healthy versus unhealthy styles of living

Top Left, Showing the better class of Indian home, 1910,
National Archives Still Pictures Branch
"Photographs of Diseased Indians," Photo no. RG75-SW-28,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Top Right, Interior of the best Indian kitchen on the Crow Reservation, 1910,
National Anthropological Archives, Photo no. 4644,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Right, Indians Eating from the Ground, 1910,
National Archives Still Pictures Branch
"Photographs of Diseased Indians," Photo no. RG75-SW-12,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer


Interior of Indian tipi, showing the passing of the pipe, 1910
National Archives Still Pictures Branch
"Photographs of Diseased Indians," Photo no. RG75-SW-20,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer

Interior of tent where tubercular case died, 1910
National Archives Still Pictures Branch
"Photographs of Diseased Indians," Photo no. RG75-SW-13,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer
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Throssel Photocraft Company

Richard Throssel Letterhead, ca. 1925
American Heritage Center University of Wyoming,
In Albright, Crow Indian Photographer
In 1911 Throssel left the Crow Reservation and his job with the Indian Service to join his family in Billings, Montana. Armed with a collection of nearly 1,000 photographs of Crow and non-Crow Indians, he opened his own commercial photography business, the Throssel Photocraft Company. While Throssel continued to photograph events on the Crow Reservation, and many Crow Indians had their portraits taken at his studio, he became most well-known for his Western Classics brochures. These were a series of 39 photos that Throssel marketed to a national audience. They were mainly in the pictorial, romanticized style that Throssel learned from Curtis, and would have been recognized by his audience as a testament to the Vanishing Race. View Twelve Throssel Prints, one of these brochures. Below are some of the Western Classics photographs.
The Sentinel The Owl Dance Sunrise on Custer's Battlefiled
Bull Goes Hunting, the Old Historian Whiteman Runs Him Two Leggings

Resources


Introduction | The Vanishing Race | A Member of the Tribe | Professional Photographer | Resources