Photography was My Life // The Don Lohnes Scholarship
"Photography was my life. It was fun. I never worked a day in my life." A humbling testament from an accomplished, well-known photographer from the Cedar Valley, Don Lohnes.
Don’s interest in photography was sparked when he discovered his high school friend’s darkroom." I was hooked immediately. I couldn’t wait to have my own darkroom." Don’s first picture he remembers taking was of his dad, Willard H. Lohnes, sitting on the running board of his new 1936 Dodge. "The picture was taken with an Eastman Kodak box camera that still works this day."
Don’s early photography instruction began in Navy Photo School in Pensacola, Florida. He later served as an aerial photographer during World War II in the Pacific. Upon returning home, he worked at numerous photography studios in the area and eventually founded Lohnes Color Photography in Waterloo. Don was an entrepreneur and worked hard to build his business. "I traveled to area high schools and took more than 3,000 senior pictures a year." He was the first studio in Iowa to go into full color photography. In 1967, Don started American Professional Color Corporation, which is now American Color Imaging.
The driving force in creating the Professional Photography Program
Seeing a need for a photography program in the community, Don approached the first superintendent of Hawkeye, Dr. Travis Martin, and asked him to consider establishing a photography program. "That is all it took, a spark of a suggestion." In 1967 Hawkeye Institute of Technology held its first photography class. Don was instrumental in hiring the first instructors and also served on the advisory board for many years.
Today, Hawkeye’s Professional Photography program has earned its reputation as one of the best in the nation. "Hawkeye’s Professional Photography Program is exceptional. There’s no other school around here that compares to it. Hawkeye’s faculty members are wonderful. They are truly dedicated."
Don was actively involved in the startup of the Mid-America Institute of Professional Photography Summer Institute. This annual event brought thousands of professional photographers to Hawkeye’s campus from all over the United States from its inception until 1998.
Lohnes Portrait Studio at Hawkeye Community College
Don is a strong supporter of Hawkeye Community College. "My career in photography gave me a wonderful life, and I just want to give back to the profession." Don established a fund that supports scholarships and provides funding to purchase equipment for photography students. The portrait studio in Black Hawk Hall has been designated The Lohnes Portrait Studio at Hawkeye Community College to honor Don’s astonishing support and contribution to the Photography program.
Don recently released a book entitled, "Photography in the Cedar Valley, 1846-2005." The book, which took three years to research and write, outlines the history of photography in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.
Even though he sold his studio and is officially retired, Don hasn’t lost his passion for taking pictures. After spending 55 years as a commercial photographer, he is now taking pictures for fun. On a recent vacation to Greece, a bystander approached him and asked if he was Don Lohnes. To his surprise, this individual remembered Don taking his senior picture 50 years ago at Cedar Falls High School.
Don touched many lives through his photography and will continue to make a difference for Hawkeye students for years to come.