After retiring from his career as a schoolteacher, J.W. Thompson spent much of the 1950s photographing Pacific Northwest Indians. He took numerous photographs at Celilo Falls and in Indian communities near the Columbia River, recording regional food gathering activities, root feasts, dances and parades. He ultimately took thousands of 35mm slides of Indians in Washington State. Nearly 3,000 of his images of eastern Washington Indians are now in the collection of Maryhill Museum of Art. A similar number of photographs of western Washington Indians are at the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle.