around the far reaches of the reservation in Marmon’s Jeep CJ-5 and meeting new people in and around the reservation.
“One day he showed me his photographs,” Corbett said. “I had never seen such beautiful portraits of Native Americans. Back in the 1960s, these people were in their eighties, nineties, even their hundreds. It dawned on me he was doing something no one had done before. He was documenting the lives of his own pueblo and the way people had lived on the reservation in the 1900s and even in the late 1800s. That’s when the idea for the book first came in my mind.”
Corbett headed back to Michigan in 1966. Around the same time, Marmon left the pueblo for Palm Springs, where he had been hired as the chief photographer for the Bob Hope Desert Classic golf tournament. “I met a lot of golfers and movie stars, Eisenhower and Nixon, and all the presidents of the era,” Marmon said. “But since they didn’t golf in the summer due to heat, I came back to Laguna every summer till I returned full-time in 1982.”
The two men rekindled their friendship in the 1980s, as Corbett helped build the photographer’s emerging national and international reputation through a sideline business publishing elegant poster prints of Marmon’s photos of Engine Rock and the pueblo’s Buffalo Dancers. The poster project also rekindled talk of the history book. “Back in the 1990s, Lee came to visit my wife and me in Ann Arbor, and I saw that as an opportunity to get the stories behind all these photographs. So I sat him down and stuck a microphone in front of him. He’s a great storyteller,” Corbett said. “Over the years, every time he told his stories I would write them down or record them.”
This isn’t the first book-length collection of Marmon’s work. In 2003, he released The Pueblo Imagination: Landscape and Memory in the Photography of Lee Marmon ,which paired his photos with writing
from Native American poets Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz and from his daughter, novelist Leslie Marmon Silko.
The portrait section of the latest book includes many of Marmon’s most familiar images, such as
White Man’s Moccasins , a 1954 photo of eightyfive-year-old Laguna Mission caretaker Jeff “Old Man Jeff” Sousea. He wears traditional dress — thick strands of beads, a wide headband knotted off to the side — but sports a pair of worn Converse high tops. Among the other knockout images are portraits of famed potter Juanita Quicero, taken four years before her death at age one hundred and seven, and farmer/ rancher/dancer Santiago Thomas. Marmon’s photographs of sheepherders, blue-corn shuckers, and Eagle Dancers are here as well, each marked by their stunning composition and revealing intimacy.
The book’s pictures of the pueblo’s St. Joseph’s Feast Day are visually arresting. In one photo, covered wagons, driven by members of other pueblos, and several Navajos who traveled hundreds of miles on horseback, surround a meadow in Laguna. Though the scene looks like it comes from the middle of the 19th century, the shot was taken in 1949, one of the last years that local tribes drove their covered wagons to Laguna for the annual celebration. “I didn’t realize how soon some of the old ways would disappear,” Marmon writes. “Men went off to war and parts of the world they never dreamed they would see and probably had never heard of — and many never came back.”
Marmon spoke of a lingering regret. “Back in the 1940s, I used to know where everybody on the reservation lived. I drove around in a stripped-down Model A pickup, and I would always have a dog sitting next to me in the passenger seat,” Marmon said. “But since I was the photographer, nobody ever got my picture.”
Lee Marmon: Eagel Dancer #1, 1962; top, left to right, Juanita Quicero , 1961; Lee Antonio #2 , 1992; J ohn Riley , 1950; 0pposite page, Blue Corn , 1949; images courtesy University of New Mexico Press
Group Dancers on the Plaza , 1962