by Dugan Aguilar
Editor’s note: Dugan Aguilar has made a life’s work of photographing California Indians. Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday and a Boom editorial board member, writes of Aguilar, in his preface to the photographer’s new book She Sang Me a Good Luck Song:
“He’s generous in his judgment of people. He approaches his subject not as a conqueror, not as a hunter out to capture an image, but as a shy, diffident admirer. He treats everyone and everything with deep and genuine respect. He seems more than willing to step out of the way. Watching him work, one has the feeling that he is not ‘taking’ pictures—‘taking’ is such an aggressive word. He seems to set things up in such a way as to allow a picture to happen.
“Yet make no mistake. In his quiet and persistent way, Dugan is a fighter, for some forty years now battling an enemy that has done everything it can to destroy Indian people: silence. Silence has erased Indian names from the landscape, has all but written Indians out of the history of California, has expunged Indian presence from the our daily consciousness. In the face of this pervasive silence, the tendency is to turn the dial up and make loud noises—photos that scream at you, overloaded with drama and intensity. Dugan has chosen another way. Rather than overdramatize, his photos whisper. They whisper to us with quiet intimacy, revealing not only people’s physical presence but hinting at their daydreams, suggesting something of the richness of their inner lives.”
She Sang Me a Good Luck Song, edited by Theresa Harlan, will be published by Heyday in June 2015.
Cousin Fred, Truckee, 1982.
Franklin Mullens, veterans’ gathering, Susanville, 2000.
Mimi Mullen (Maidu), grand marshal, 1997 Greenville Gold Digger Days parade.
Feathers with Flair, Susanville Parade, ca. 1987.
Jennifer Bates, Oakland Big Time, 1996.
Isabella, Spring Flower Dance, ca. 2004.