About the Northwest Photography Archive

The mission of the Northwest Photography Archive is to expand awareness of and access to an extraordinary cultural resource through the publication of historically and artistically significant photographs.

Over the century and a half that photographers have been chronicling the land, people, and events of the Pacific Northwest, they have created a wealth of compelling images, both artistic and documentary. Unfortunately, the great majority of these historical photographs—scattered in public and private collections throughout the region and beyond—are rarely seen, their existence largely unknown.

The Northwest Photography Archive works to restore this valuable part of our cultural heritage to public view by gathering remarkable images that illuminate particular themes and presenting them as curated collections in attractive, affordable books. Publishing these photographs in book form provides the opportunity to include insightful commentary, providing readers a deeper appreciation of their historical and artistic significance and of the circumstances under which they were created.

A nonprofit organization, the Northwest Photography Archive makes the books in the Northwest Photography Series widely available by selling them at cost; the series is published in cooperation with Oregon State University Press, which distributes the books nationally. The book series is the core project of our organization, which that also presents educational programming at libraries, organizes collateral exhibitions at museums and cultural institutions, and will eventually offer a free online image archive.

The Northwest Photography Archive was founded in 2002 by two close friends – writer, editor, and designer John Laursen, and the late photographer Terry Toedtemeier, longtime curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum – and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2007. This collaborative effort grew out of the knowledge that there exists a considerable body of photography from the Pacific Northwest, dating back to the mid-1800s, that is integral to our collective cultural heritage but is largely hidden away in archives and relatively inaccessible to the public. Most of these works are fragile, and indeed many of the oldest ones have been damaged by the passage of time; now, though, digital technology makes it possible to scan vulnerable photographic images and electronically restore them to their original quality for print reproduction.

The Archive chose as the subject of its initial volume one of the most magnificent landforms of the American West. Co-authored by Laursen and Toedtemeier, Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867–1957 was supported by many of the region’s major philanthropists and foundations as well as by a prestigious “American Masterpieces Initiative” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission.

Entirely printed and bound in Oregon, Wild Beauty was published in September 2008, in conjunction with the opening of a major exhibition, based on the book, at the Portland Art Museum. Wild Beauty was acclaimed by the Oregonian, the Seattle Post-­Intelligencer, and the Wall Street Journal. It was named the best Northwest book of the year by Jeff Baker, the Oregonian’s book reviewer, was a finalist for the 2009 Oregon Book Award in nonfiction, and won a Pacific Northwest Book Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.

Our forthcoming second volume, Enduring Spirit: Photographs of Northwest Native Americans, 1855–1934, will be the same size and format as Wild Beauty, and will be produced with the same quality and scrupulous attention to detail.


Oneonta Gorge Darius Kinsey and Tabitha Kinsey Hand-colored gelatin silver print, 1923

The Northwest Photography
Archive Board of Directors

Karyle Butcher, President
Michael Achterman, Secretary/Treasurer
Hatham Al-Shabibi
M. J. Cody
Steffeni Mendoza Gray
John Laursen
Jeff Wright