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Putting the "We" in We Are Ithaca


“I wanted everybody to see that… in Ithaca… there are a lot of people from different backgrounds” – The Cardenas Sisters

Ithaca, New York is often described as a unique, diverse and entertaining place to live, with an abundance of things to see and places to explore.  It’s this distinctive and original atmosphere that led Robyn Wishna to pursue her project “We Are Ithaca,” a community portrait series.

What is We Are Ithaca?

We Are Ithaca is a community portrait project created by photographer Robyn Wishna in conjunction with the Park Foundation and the Community Arts Partnership.  Its purpose is to create a “snapshot” of Ithaca in 2017 and showcase the people who live here.

Robyn Wishna is a documentary and photojournalist, as well as a part-time Ithaca College professor, who says she loves to allow people to tell their stories. “Ithaca… it’s people, which I think is one of its best assets.”

The goal of this project – as told by Wishna:

  • Establish a visual narrative of Ithaca

  • Allow people to tell their stories

  • Create an art installation

This is one of the most essential parts to Wishna.  The only way to tell the story of the diversity that Ithaca is built upon is to physically show it.  The ability to use photography to encapsulate someone’s heritage, someone’s hobbies and someone’s voice is what creativity is about.

Although this current project mainly revolves around photography, We Are Ithaca is scheduled to have a much greater impact in the community.

Long Term Vision

We are Ithaca has begun as 20 or so portrait sessions all throughout Ithaca.  Wishna takes a portrait of anyone who’d like to come in and participate.  She often encourages people to bring something along that is meaningful to them.  Whether it is a flag, a photo, a pair of sneakers – everyone has their own story to tell.

Once the photo is finished, Wishna then asks if they would like to share anything on video.  Many people liked the idea of being able to actually voice their opinion.

All of the portraits are later posted online and available for download.  It is the video pieces which will then take on a new life of their own.

Wishna and her team plan to create a “little documentary about the whole project” including the compelling pieces that people chose to share.  Then, next August, Wishna says, “there will be a celebration of sorts, I think it’s going to be over two days including exhibits and talks and video pieces.”

Sam Queen, an Ithaca photo framer talked about his friend Wishna saying, “she’s very active in those communities and I think this is just another way of her giving back to those communities.”

The We Are Ithaca photo series is still in progress and is scheduled to be finished a little less than a year from now.

Wishna and her crew seem to be pleased with the turn out they’ve received so far, and intend to keep shooting until they’ve got all the material they need.

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