Throughout his first 16 years in the U.S., Huettner moved around a lot. Wherever he went, he took photographs. At first, his 2 x 3 bellows extension camera captured the world around him, and later he moved to a Leica. Alfred, and his brother Oscar settled in South Dakota in 1911, living predominantly in the town of Mobridge (so named because the town possessed a bridge over the Missouri River). The brothers settled in Mobridge, as The Mobridge Tribune recalled, because the raft they had built and were intending to use to get to New Orleans became stuck in the ice. They were stuck and apparently decided to make the best of the situation. It wasn’t long before the pair had set-up a photography studio on Main Street.
In South Dakota, Huettner took many entrancing portraits of Native Americans, making friends with the children and families as he photographed them and sometimes even acted as a schoolteacher. His South Dakota photos depicted vast panoramas of undeveloped badlands, piles of snow, dark locomotives moving across the open spaces, and even train wrecks. Farmers, townspeople, cowboys, “sodbusters,” and families came alive in his photos. When he moved to Columbia, it was science and scientists who filled his lenses and whose images he left for us to enjoy.