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One Professor’s Quest To Capture Campus Beauty & Make The Lion Shrine Different

As pretty much every student’s Snapchat and Instagram stories will tell you, there’s rarely an angle where Penn State’s campus doesn’t look good –regardless if the flowers are blooming, the foliage is on full display, or there’s snow on the ground.

However, one professor takes his appreciation for campus’ beauty one step further on social media. John Beale, a professor in Penn State’s Bellisario College of Communications, captures picture-perfect snapshots of Penn State landmarks and natural beauty for his Instagram account “Postcards From Penn State.”

Beale started his account about a year ago after noticing he had amassed thousands of images with nowhere to put them. Although the College of Comm was using some of his images in promotional materials, Beale realizing that he wanted to share more of his pictures with the community.

So he did what anyone with an eye for photography in the year 2019 would do: He made an Instagram for it.

Originally, he launched a website, Happy Valley Photos, to display some of the images he took around campus, but that wasn’t enough for Beale. He wanted to make the switch to Instagram to help better connect with the public. It’s still a relatively new venture for him.

When taking photos, Beale keeps a variety of perspectives in mind. He tries to take pictures that show off a different angle and make the object he’s shooting interesting. After all, because of how picturesque Penn State’s campus is with sites like Old Main and Beaver Stadium, finding a new way to capture their beauty can sometimes be an exciting challenge for photographers.

“There’s a snapshot, and then there’s what the photographer brings to the picture, and that’s something like angle, light, and composition,” Beale said. “How do you take one thing, such as the Lion Shrine, and how do you make it interesting? How do you make it different?”

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Sure sign of spring #pennstate.

A post shared by Postcards_From_Penn_State (@postcards_from_penn_state) on

As a former photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Beale has shot a variety of images. Although, not all of his images have necessarily been of beauty.

“I saw a lot of bad stuff. I was photographing people’s worst moments,” Beale said.

There’s a lot of bad out there in the world, and working with a professional newspaper, sometimes you have to shoot horrific or emotionally-taxing events. One of his projects for the Post-Gazette took him on a one-year-long journey photographing the realities of rural poverty.

Beale spent a lot of time covering breaking news too, so he often found himself on the front lines of horrific events. He added, however, that although he may not have photographed pleasant things all of the time, simply enjoying photography is an important part of what he’s made a living doing.

“There’s something about going out and just enjoying photography,” Beale said. “It’s different than journalism, but it’s just as important.”

Beale hopes that his photos will eventually help keep his former students connected with their alma mater. He also hopes that his photos will open people’s eyes to the beauty of Penn State and its campus.

For more of Beale’s work, check out his Instagram page or website.

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About the Author

Alysa Rubin

Alysa is a junior majoring in journalism, and is Onward State's assistant visual editor. She was born in Connecticut and raised in Delco, PA (sup, John Harrar?) Alysa loves long walks (to her fridge), fun socks, and Philly sports. You can also find Alysa behind her camera during most hours of the day. During the summer of 2021, Alysa spent a summer on Cape Cod as a photographer, and it became her entire personality. Follow @arubin241 on Twitter to keep up with what she sees through her lens (and for a funny retweet or two.)


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