Exhibit: The Bud Lake and Randy Brewer Collection


The Bud Lake and Randy Brewer Collection

This exhibit highlights photographs from the Bud Lake and Randy Brewer collection, a group of over 1,000 images housed in the Montana Historical Society and available online at the Montana Memory Project. Most of the photographs were taken on Apsáalooke (Crow) and Tsetsêhesêstâhase/So'taahe (Northern Cheyenne) land from the 1840s to 1930s. The collection itself ranges from landscapes of the Beartooth Mountains to rodeo tricks, but this exhibit focuses on photographs of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow people. 

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Two Indians with camera and film.

Exhibit Themes and Organization

The following pages are organized by photographer, not to put their perspective in the forefront, but to explore themes of settler-colonialism, the agency of both the photographic “subject” and the photographer, and to offer nuanced stories of how the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and the photographers navigated cultural and language barriers. Viewers are encouraged to observe how each series of photographs varied depending on the photographer’s relationship with the Crow and Northern Cheyenne people. The photographers’ backgrounds range from a Swiss immigrant who was “too honest and straight laced to make much money,”¹ to a man who was born of Cree heritage and adopted into the Crow tribe.² The backgrounds of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne people are equally diverse, spanning in geographic origin, occupation, gender, and age. 

A Call to Action

While this collection may be physically housed in the Montana Historical Society, the photographs and the stories the photographs tell belong to the tribal nations and people of Montana. Dialogue between the museum and Montanans can create a deeper level of understanding of these photographs and the history of the state. As scholar Martha A. Sandweiss wrote, “Twenty-first-century viewers bring to early photographs different kinds of knowledge and expectations than did their nineteenth-century counterparts. Native American viewers find in pictures of their ancestors associations, meanings, and values entirely unimagined by the Euro-American photographers who made them.”³ The Montana Historical Society welcomes additional information viewers may have regarding the people and places in these photographs. You can contact us directly at 406-444-4739 or photoarchives@mt.gov.

  1. Bill Beasley, "Frontier Photographer's Lens Caught Spectacular Scenes, Characters: Baumgartner Pictures Still Selling," The Billings Gazette second section Billings, Montana Sunday January 6 1957, 71st year no. 249, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives Photographer Files, Helena, MT.
  2. Peggy Albright and Joanna Cohan Scherer, “Crow Indian Photographer: The work of Richard Throssel,”  University of New Mexico Press, 1997, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives Photographer Files, Helena, MT.
  3. Martha A. Sandweiss, Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), 265.