Meadowlark Gallery: The Artist Biographies

Richard A. Throssel (1882-1933)

Richard Albert Throssel (1882-1933) was born in Marengo, Washington, of French Canadian and Cree Indian descent. Throssel moved to the Crow Indian reservation in southeastern Montana in 1902 for the drier climate and to join his brother Harry as an office clerk. Throssel was adopted by the Crow tribe in 1905 and given the name of Esh Quon Dupahs, or "Kills Inside the Camp."

While at the reservation Throssel bought some camera equipment and took photography through correspondence schools. In 1905, he met photographer Edward S. Curtis, and was briefly instructed by him. Curtis was at the time working on his monumental works The Vanishing Race and North American Indians and invited Throssel to his studio in Seattle for further instruction in photographic techniques. In 1909 Commissioner for Indian Affairs R.G. Valentine appointed Throssel to be field photographer for the Crow reservation and assigned him to take documentary pictures of the tribe in a campaign against tuberculosis. Shortly afterwards Throssel in 1911, established his own photography studio, the Throssel Photocraft Company, in Billings, Montana. He worked as a commercial photographer and endeavored to attract attention to his pictures of the Crows through postcards, prints, and giving lantern slide lectures in his studio.

Most of the photographs taken by Throssel depict the Crow, or Apsaroke, as they referred to themselves, from 1905-1910. By the early 1900s, the Crows, like other tribes in the country, were being encouraged to assimilate into mainstream white society on reservations. During the reservation period, both men and women continued to use dress and other elements of traditional material culture to retain a sense of individual and cultural identity. Crows had earned the reputation of being "good Indians" by working as scouts for the U.S. Army, especially for General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Throssel showed Crow life from the perspective of a near-insider. He documented a broad range of cultural displays, providing a record of context and change for the Crow's adaptation to reservation life. Many of the works convey spontaneity, with the subjects seemingly unaware of the camera.

Source: American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3924, Laramie, WY 82071.

View high resolution images of works by Richard A. Throssel when available.