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Dugan Aguilar

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Dugan Aguilar (1947–2018[1]) was a Native American photographer whose work has been exhibited by major museums. He is "among the first Native photographers to document Native life in Yosemite and California through his own vision."[2]

Early life[edit]

Robert Dugan Aguilar was born on August 8, 1947, in Susanville, California,[1] where he grew up. His mother's family was Maidu from the Green River Rancheria and Achomawi living on Hat Creek. His father was Northern Paiute from the Walker River Indian Reservation in Nevada. Aguilar also has some Irish ancestry and preferred the name Dugan, because it means "of dark complexion" in Gaelic.[3]

Military service[edit]

Leonard Lowry, one of the most decorated Native American war heroes of the U.S. military, was Aguilar's uncle. Lowry joined the United States Army in 1940, served in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan during and after World War II. Lowry won the Distinguished Service Cross in Korea in 1950,[4] and retired after 27 years as a lieutenant colonel.

Aguilar served in the Vietnam War for 13 months. The Maidu community made him a warrior when he returned and gave him a beaded golden eagle feather award. His mother transformed his uniform into a quilt.[5]


Aguilar graduated from California State University, Fresno in 1973. He studied photography at the graduate level at University of California, Santa Cruz; University of California, Davis; and University of Nevada, Reno.[6]

Art career[edit]

Ansel Adams was an influence and inspiration to Aguilar. After Aguilar first saw photos by Adams at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1973, he decided to learn how to print negatives in a similar way.[7] He took a workshop with Ansel Adams in 1978, and decided to concentrate his career on documenting the Native Americans of California and Nevada.[6] He has used techniques advocated by Adams such as previsualization and use of red filters to create a dark sky.[7]

According to independent curator and scholar Brian Bibby, "Aguilar's work is informed by familiarity and affiliation with his subject."[2]


Dugan Aguilar died on October 6, 2018, in Elk Grove, California.[1]



Dugan Aguilar's photographs have been published in the following books:


  1. ^ a b c "Robert Dugan Aguilar". Elk Grove Citizen. 17 Oct 2018.
  2. ^ a b Bibby, Brian; edited by Amy Scott (2006). Yosemite: Art of an American Icon. University of California Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 9780520249226. {{cite book}}: |author2= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ Harrison, Henry (1996) [1912]. Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary. Vol. 1. London: Genealogical Publishing Company (reprint). p. 124. ISBN 9780806301716.
  4. ^ "Valor awards for Leonard Lowry: Distinguished Service Cross". Military Times Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Meyler, Claire F. (November 22, 2010). "Forces of Change". Gallery of California History. Oakland Museum of California. Archived from the original on October 16, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Trainer, Laureen; edited by Amy Scott (2006). Yosemite: Art of an American Icon. University of California Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780520249226. {{cite book}}: |author2= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ a b c Dalkey, Victoria (August 19, 2001). "Reflections of a People: Keeper of the flame - For Dugan Aguilar, photographing the lives of California Indians is in his blood". Sacramento Bee. Sacramento.
  8. ^ "SHOWS DEPICT BOTH SIDES TO CLICHES". Contra Costa Times. October 30, 1998.
  9. ^ "American Indian war veterans star in photo exhibit". Sacramento Bee. Sacramento. November 18, 2001. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  10. ^ "Picturing the People, September 7, 2007 - January 27, 2008". Kazzy and Mom. Autry National Center. Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  11. ^ "Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home". Art and Poetry from Native California. Grace Hudson Museum. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  12. ^ "Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California". ARTslant San Francisco. October 2, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2011.

External links[edit]