Dugan Aguilar

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Robert Dugan Aguilar is 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."[1]


Born in 1947, Aguilar lived in Susanville, California as a youth. He does not usually use his first name and is known as Dugan Aguilar. His mother's ancestors were Maidu from the Green River Rancheria, and from the Pit River Tribe living on Hat Creek. His father is Northern Paiute from the Walker River Indian Reservation in Nevada. He also has some Irish ancestry, and prefers the name Dugan because it means "of dark complexion" in Gaelic.[2]

He is a nephew of Leonard Lowry, one of the most decorated Native American war heroes of the U.S. military. Lowry joined the United States Army in 1940, served in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan during and after World War II. He won the Distinguished Service Cross in Korea in 1950,[3] and retired after 27 years as a lieutenant colonel.

Aguilar served in the Vietnam War for 13 months. The Maidu made him a warrior when he returned, and gave him a beaded golden eagle feather award. His mother made his uniform into a quilt.[4]

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.[5]

Aguilar has been heavily influenced by the photography of Ansel Adams. He first saw photos by Adams at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1973, and decided to learn how to print negatives in a similar way.[6] He took a workshop with Ansel Adams in 1978, and decided to concentrate his career on documenting the Native Americans of California and Nevada.[5] He has used techniques advocated by Adams such as previsualization and use of red filters to create a dark sky.[6]

According to Indian art expert Brian Bibby, "Aguilar's work in informed by familiarity and affiliation with his subject."[1]



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


  1. ^ a b Bibby, Brian; edited by Amy Scott (2006). Yosemite: Art of an American Icon. University of California Press. pp. 111–112. 
  2. ^ Harrison, Henry (1996) [1912]. Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary. 1. London: Genealogical Publishing Company (reprint). p. 124. 
  3. ^ "Valor awards for Leonard Lowry: Distinguished Service Cross". Military Times Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Meyler, Claire F. (November 22, 2010). "Forces of Change". Gallery of California History. Oakland Museum of California. 
  5. ^ a b Trainer, Laureen; edited by Amy Scott (2006). Yosemite: Art of an American Icon. University of California Press. p. 193. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "SHOWS DEPICT BOTH SIDES TO CLICHES". Contra Costa Times. October 30, 1998. 
  8. ^ "American Indian war veterans star in photo exhibit". Sacramento Bee. Sacramento. November 18, 2001. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Picturing the People, September 7, 2007 - January 27, 2008". Kazzy and Mom. Autry National Center. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home". Art and Poetry from Native California. Grace Hudson Museum. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California". ARTslant San Francisco. October 2, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 

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