Lee Marmon has spent his life in Laguna, New Mexico.He embarked on his extraordinary career after returning from World War II. He began photographing tribal elders at the suggestion of his father. From that beginning, his work took him to Hollywood, the White House, Acoma Pueblo and back home to Laguna. Along the way he photographed presidents, celebrities, tribal elders, dancers, and sacred landscapes of the Southwest. His work is a unique visual record of American life and has garnered many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Fe Indian Market and The Czech Republic's Kantuta humanitarian award.
He created more than 90,000 photographs. The negatives of those photographs have been acquired by the University of New Mexico to be archived and protected. Lee's work is in museums, Buckingham Palace, the Smithsonian, and the permanent collection of the White House.
I started getting serious about photography in 1945 after my dad told me I should be taking pictures of some of the old people around the Pueblo. [Laguna] My father said we should have some record of the elders, so we could remember them and their stories. After that, while delivering groceries in our 1920 Model A, I would take my camera with me around the village and look for some of the old timers sitting out in the sun. I would ask them if I could get their picture. Most of them said OK, and a few said no. . . .The old timers, as I called them, had a very special quality about them, and this is what I hoped to capture in my photographs.
At the time, I didn't realize that I too would become an elder of the tribe. But it happened.