Laguna Pueblo: A Photographic History by Lee Marmon andTom Corbett
a history of Laguna Pueblo
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