On a trip to State College last year a friend of mine familiar with my love for Mount Nittany pulled something remarkable out of her basement. What she had was the photo you see here. It’s a photo of Mount Nittany taken by Robert Beese probably sometime in the 1940s.
The second I laid eyes on this it captured me. I don’t juts see Mount Nittany. I see a pristine place of beauty. Not only the Mountain untouched by man, but pretty much an entirely natural landscape.
Robert Beese’s Mount Nittany doesn’t just capture a bit of pre-industrial Central Pennsylvania—a bit of the world of a few decades ago. I think it captures the ancient spirit of the Mountain. It’s the same scene that Evan Pugh would have seen when looking out from campus. And it’s the landscape that the Lenni Lenape and countless generations before them would have been a part of. To really be carried away by Robert Beese’s Mount Nittany is to let yourself, for a few moments, slip out of time.
Obviously, I love it. If you do too, you can access the high resolution version on Flickr and make your own print. (I’ll assume Robert Beese would have wanted to share unless I hear otherwise from his family.)
Beese died in 2004 at age 86, and my older State College friend was a friend of his. Penn State Libraries has a collection of his work, and the text below is from their site. After my State College friend gave me his Mount Nittany, I had it framed pretty much right away.
From 1942 until his retirement in 1977, Robert S. Beese served as photographer for the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, advised the Penn State Camera Club, and was active with the Color Slide Club. Beese began his photographic career while growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was an active member of his high school’s camera club, and even set up a dark room in his parents’ basement, equipped with an enlarger he made himself. Shortly after graduation, he began an apprenticeship with a local photographer who encouraged him to enroll in a top photographic school. Beese enrolled at the Clarence White School of Photography in New York City, where he studied under Ansel Adams. His classmates included Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. Beese also studied at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, and the Winowa and Leica schools of photography, both in Winowa, Indiana.