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Growing Up with the California Missions

My father, Hubert A. Lowman, started taking pictures of the California Missions in 1946. He was a professional, scenic photographer, so he took pictures all over California and the west, but he had a special love of the California Missions.

His studio and darkroom were in our home in Southern California, and as far back as I can remember, he had pictures of the California Missions hanging on the wall of his studio. Today, my wife and I have some of his mission photographs hanging on the walls of our home.

Sometimes I visited the missions with my father. He published postcards of the missions in the early 1950’s, which he sold to the mission gift shops.  Later, he added books and posters about the missions to his product line.  It always seemed a little strange to me to see my father’s photographs and books on the shelves of the gift shops.  At the same time, I was proud of him.  I mean, that was my DAD who took those pictures!

Then, 15 years ago, I started taking pictures of the California Missions for postcards, books, jigsaw puzzles, posters, and photo print sets. It seemed so natural.  I had watched my father do the same thing for many years, and I just did what he used to do.

Yes, it seems a little strange to see my own photographs and books on sale at the mission gift shops and here on this website. I am proud of what I’m doing, but I mean, that was ME who took those pictures!

And guess what? I’ve developed a special love of the California Missions myself.  Yes, their history is controversial, because they represent colonialism and all that implies.  Yes, they represent the Roman Catholic Church in a country of growing religious diversity.  At the same time, they are beautiful, they are timeless, and they link us to the past in California.  They are worth preserving, and they are worth visiting.