Site Search

Don Usner

Celebrated native New Mexican photographer Don Usner has been making portraits of Lannan Foundation guest speakers since 1997. Usner has photographed hundreds of unique characters, capturing on film the personalities of famous writers, poets, Nobel Laureates and social activists. From Toni Morrison to Gore Vidal, Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Amy Goodman, and Susan Sontag to Robert Creeley and Cornel West, Usner’s subjects include many of the 20th Century’s most distinguished thinkers.

Don Usner ( was born in Embudo, near Taos, New Mexico in 1957 and spent his youth in Los Alamos and Chimayó. His family has a long history in the Rio Grande Valley, and its landscape and history have been a significant inspiration in his photography. Usner’s work has been presented in several exhibitions and publications, including Sabino’s Map: Life in Chimayó’s Old Plaza and, with William deBuys, Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico’s National Preserve, as well as a collection of folk tales told by his grandmother, Benigna’s Chimayó, Cuentos from the Old Plaza. Usner has served as Lannan Foundation’s official photographer since 1997.

During his three-week Lannan residency, Don Usner worked on a book documenting the cultural life of Chimayó, New Mexico. In his final report to the foundation he stated that “…rather than a simple recounting of facts or a catalogue of elements of place, I felt compelled to create semi-fictional vignettes. To produce them, I had to stretch my writing and imagining abilities in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.”

This forthcoming work will be published in both English and Spanish. When he is not writing, Mr. Usner works as a professional photographer. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • 2000