The community portrait project, We Are Ithaca, held its final photo session Thursday. The project was created by two local photographers in collaboration with the Community Arts Partnership. One of them is Robyn Wishna. The project began last fall, she says, to offer the community something positive in a year that had so much negativity.
“We came up with this project to celebrate the community through portraits. So celebrate our uniqueness and diversity through a portrait project,” said Wishna.
She held a photo shoot in every neighborhood of Ithaca and produced over 1,200 individual portraits. Participants could bring an item important to them to be photographed with. For Carrie Barnes, it was her Kermit the Frog doll. For her portrait wore an elegant black and white outfit and a pair of black and white old-fashioned styled heels.
“Kermit,” she said, “was always my role model when I was a little kid. Mostly because I saw that he was the calm center of the storm and even though chaos was swirling around him with pigs and chickens and Gonzos and everything, he always kept his calm and he always appreciated the weirdness around him even when it was making him flap his fins.”
Several people admitted, they don’t like having their photo taken, but still wanted to be part of this community project. Laurie Johnston was one of them. She wore green cowboy boots, a patterned green and blue dress and a big faux fur collar. She moved to Ithaca five years ago from North Carolina and coming to Ithaca marked an important transition in her life. As she talked about her connection to Ithaca, her eyes filled with tears.
“I love it here. So it was a life change for me I really needed. Um, my career was great but I needed a change and so I’m just loving Ithaca. I love the connections,” said Johnston. “I love the people that I meet here every day. Literally everyday. Whether it’s just walking into the building where I work or running at night with my dog. I meet so many different walks of life in my walk of life here. So that what’s Ithaca is for me. It just connects me to a broader, diverse, open-minded group of people and I love it!”
Robyn Wishna wants the project to live on throughout the summer with art installations, short videos and maybe community conversations.
CORRECTION: An earlier version stated that project was created by three photographers. Only two of the creators are photographers.