Behind the lens with Peter Houts

December 16, 2009

Not only did retired behavioral science professor Peter Houts donate a variety of landscape photographs to Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, but he also captured each one himself by spending countless hours in a place that he has grown to love -- the Hershey Gardens. Featured throughout the hallways of the Cancer Institute, Houts’ photographs showcase the seasons of the Gardens, including the snow-covered Japanese garden pond, perennial garden pathway and knock-out roses. Each photograph is vibrant yet peaceful, and stimulates the imagination.

“There’s a story behind each of my photos,” said Houts. “It’s very rewarding that patients and families get to see them.”

Houts has enjoyed photography as a hobby since he purchased his first camera at 13 years old, shortly after World War II.

“The magic of seeing the picture develop in the dark room was just intriguing,” said Houts. “I got hooked on it and have taken photographs ever since.”

After Houts retired from Penn State College of Medicine in October 1998, he attended art school for three years to study graphic design. During that time, the digital camera was introduced, and he began to learn digital photography. His subjects expanded from people in family portraits to the outdoors when in 2004 he began to photograph Hershey Gardens for a book about its history, "Hershey Gardens: The Cornfield that Blossomed with Roses," written by his wife Mary Davidoff Houts.

“For two years, my wife and I visited the Gardens weekly, sometimes early in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon,” said Houts. “It takes more time than most people realize to get the very best shot.”

In fact, Houts said sometimes he takes many photographs before he captures what he feels is “just the right one”.

During his career at the College of Medicine, Houts was dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients with cancer. He studied different aspects of how illness, especially cancer, affects patients and their families, including the economic and psychological burden of disease, and the impact of treatments on quality of life. Among the first faculty hired at the College of Medicine in 1967, Houts is well-known for his work, leaving a foundation that the Penn State Hershey Medical Center builds upon today.

  • Retired Behavioral Science Professor Peter Houts with one of 12 photographs that he donated to Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010