The world was fascinated with the western frontier at the turn of the 20th century.
Photographers like LA Huffman made sure the west was portrayed honestly and without romanticism. Huffman 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 well known for photographing cowboys, Indians, soldiers and the last buffalo hunting in eastern Montana.
At the time, photographers used glass pains to capture their negatives which were brittle and difficult to transport.
Montana Historical Society photo archivist Jeff Malcomson said Montanans are fortunate over 12,000 of the glass negatives survived, not only because of their fragile nature but also their historic significance.
“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.
The Montana Historical Society will host Kristi Hager who will speak on influential photography in Montana -- which includes LA Huffman -- on Thursday. The Montana Historical Society said the talk will touch on photographers from the 1880s through present day.
In a statement the organization said of the photographers: “Their photographs have inspired both to fill the land as well as to preserve its emptiness.”
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