La­guna Pue­blo: A Pho­to­graphic His­tory by Lee Mar­mon andTom Cor­bett

a his­tory of La­guna Pue­blo

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Casey Sanchez

Lee Mar­mon, now on the cusp of turn­ing ninety, has taken more than 100,000 pho­tos of La­guna Pue­blo’s el­ders, ar­chi­tec­ture, and land­scape through­out a ca­reer that spans nearly seven decades. Ar­guably the world’s best-known Na­tive Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher, he be­gan tak­ing his first pho­tos in 1947. A gro­cery de­liv­ery driver armed with only a Model A pickup truck and a Speed Graphic cam­era, he trav­eled daily to the far­thest reaches of the reser­va­tion, cre­at­ing por­traits and com­mit­ting to mem­ory the sto­ries of tribal mem­bers born as long ago as the 1860s.

“I never took art classes. I didn’t know a damn thing about photography when I started. I learned from a book and through trial and er­ror. That’s how I learned,” Mar­mon said. “I do my own print­ing and de­vel­op­ing. All the prints that are out now are the ones I did my­self.”

In a book re­leased this month by the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Press, La­guna Pue­blo: A Pho­to­graphic

His­tory , Mar­mon and his co-au­thor, Tom Cor­bett, pair the pho­tog­ra­pher’s black-and-white images with a ro­bust se­lec­tion of archival pho­tos, tran­scribed in­ter­views, and a nar­ra­tive his­tory of the pue­blo dat­ing back to the mid-19th cen­tury, us­ing sources drawn from tribal el­ders, his­to­ri­ans, and ar­chae­ol­o­gists. It cre­ates a co­her­ent and vis­ually com­pelling record of the pue­blo’s last 150 years.

Lo­cated about 45 miles south­west of Al­bu­querque, the Kere­san-speak­ing pue­blo has main­tained its tribal prac­tices and lan­guage for 400 years, some­times un­der Span­ish, Mex­i­can, and Amer­i­can rule, and of­ten while de­fend­ing it­self against raids from war­ring Apache and Navajo bands. In the early 20th cen­tury, the cen­tral vil­lage of Old La­guna was bi­sected by the Santa Fe Rail­road and Route 66, be­com­ing an un­likely hub that had La­guna mem­bers play­ing host to trav­el­ers rang­ing from elite East Coast artists to Okies flee­ing the Dust Bowl.

As sev­eral chap­ters in the book re­late, La­guna Pue­blo has of­ten as­sim­i­lated out­siders into its fold. Mar­mon’s ex­tended fam­ily is a case in point. The pho­tog­ra­pher is the grand­son of Robert Gunn Mar­mon, an An­glo trans­plant from Ohio who moved to La­guna in 1872 and learned Kere­san flu­ently be­fore mar­ry­ing into the tribe and suc­cess­fully run­ning a trad­ing post, cat­tle ranch, ho­tel, and postal op­er­a­tion. Ac­cepted by the La­guna as one their own, in 1880 he be­came the first white man elected gover­nor of a New Mex­ico pue­blo and was later ap­pointed cap­tain of Com­pany I, a New Mex­ico Cav­alry reg­i­ment solely made up of La­guna tribal sol­diers.

Be­yond fam­ily his­tory, the ori­gins for Mar­mon’s book date back more than 50 years, Cor­bett said. In 1964, the Mid­west­erner, fresh out of med­i­cal school, op­er­ated the pue­blo’s clinic for two years while re­ceiv­ing a cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion in all things La­guna from his neigh­bor Mar­mon. They be­came friends, off-road­ing

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