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Ithaca is People: Brian Maley

The #IthacaisPeople Files

Week 2: Indiana Jones Lives! And He’s in Ithaca.

Think you know Ithaca? Think again. No matter how many waterfalls, gorges, and natural wonders you’ve visited, Brian Maley has you beat. We had the pleasure of chatting with the local photographer, who’s next to take over our @VisitIthaca Instagram account. This week, he’ll be bringing you along on a journey through the unique natural areas he explores on a regular basis. Follow us on Instagram to discover Ithaca like you’ve never seen it before - through the lense of Brian Maley.

Check our exclusive interview with Brian below.

What do you do?

B: So I am a program evaluation specialist at Cornell University. I evaluate teen pregnancy prevention programs with a project called Act for Youth in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Wow. That’s awesome. I bit of a step away from photography, huh?

B: (laughs) Yeah.

So…hobbies and interests. Obviously photography…anything else that you enjoy?

B: Uh... nothing. Oh my gosh, it’s embarrassing, that’s the only thing I do! Um… do I do anything other than that?

It’s alright if that’s it. It’s a pretty great hobby, and you’re good at it, so…

B: I like to hike and I am very passionate about conservation and the outdoors in general, but it’s really photography. That’s my hobby.

Cool. So where are you from originally?

B: Ithaca.

Have you ever lived elsewhere?

B: I have not.

So what’s your favorite part about Ithaca?

B: Well I am from Ithaca, I graduated from Ithaca High School, I went to Ithaca College. All but one member of my family has been through Ithaca College, so we’re all Ithaca College Graduates (laughs) or employees.

Wow, that’s impressive.

B: I ended up staying in Ithaca kind of by accident, by getting my job. I was intending on leaving after graduation. I know that that’s not really great for this profile! But I intended on leaving after IC, and I ended up getting a job offer at Cornell and took it.

I’d been taking pictures and exploring, but I hadn’t really been taking it that seriously yet. Then I had a job with no homework to do for once in my life and I had been running track at Ithaca College too, so I took all that extra free time and just started exploring and hiking and really diving into photography. And so that combination of exploring - and not just in places like Taughannock [Falls] and Buttermilk [Falls] and Ithaca Falls and Cascadilla [Gorge] and places I’d been to a million times, but really trying to find new places. And I actually had been working with - there’s a board with the city that’s in charge of documenting unique natural resources of Tompkins County - and they have this really extensive map with like really, really detailed information on these 198 “Unique Natural Areas” they’re called, and you know, Taughannock Falls is like number 156 and then there’s a swamp out in Dryden that’s like, number 100. Some of them are really obvious, and some of them a really hidden and tucked away.

And so I have been working on a project for the last two and a half to three years to really try and systematically document all of those places. And I haven’t even (laughs), I haven’t even come close. I mean, some of those places are on private property, so that makes it really challenging, I can’t really go on private property but um…

Who is this project for again?

B: Myself. Um, I am working with the town, this Unique Natural Areas Board which is a really small, small group that meets like, bi-monthly or something like that, who’ve compiled this list and I just thought that it would make for a really interesting art project to put together a photo book documenting these unique natural places that aren’t the places that you would normally think of. I haven’t put anything together yet… it became much more… much more of an extensive project than I ever expected it to be. So hopefully in a year or two I will be able to come up with a finished product, but for now it’s still basically going back to the same places again and again and again, and trying to get the same pictures that I have been scouting, and get them in different seasons and really trying to document the changing seasons around here. It’s probably the best part about Ithaca.


B: People hate it! (laughs) They hate winter here, but it really makes things like spring worth it. Spring is incredibly beautiful and obviously fall is… well… fall is something else.

Yes, it is.

B: Summer’s awesome, and Winter’s tough, but it makes thee other three seasons totally worth staying here. That’s a very long answer to that question (laughs).

No, it’s all good stuff! It’s actually so good that I only have one last question. What is your favorite memory in Ithaca?

B: (very long pause) Gosh, that’s the most impossible question. My entire life has been in Ithaca so it’s like asking me what the favorite memory of my life is. (another very long pause)

Just a good one. It doesn’t have to be your favorite… that is hard.

B: It’s so difficult!

Ok, let me rephrase it. What was a moment when you said to yourself, “Oh my gosh, I am so lucky to live here”?

B: I think the first time that I explored this one ravine that’s right up near Elm Street. It’s a critical conservation area and it is very difficult to maneuver. There’s no trail or anything, so you just have to go into the gorge. But I just kept going around turn after turn of this ravine, and I kept seeing another incredible waterfall one after the other, and I was like, “How is this here?” It was a 5 minute walk from downtown, how had this been here my entire life and I’d never known about it? Um… so that was incredible. That was an incredible feeling to have that discovery, and since then it’s been kind of the drive to continue discovering things like that.

Ok, one more question. Sorry. For real this time.

B: That’s ok. (laughs)

If you could describe Ithaca in one word, what would it be?

B: Hmmm… Ithaca in one word. Eclectic?

We’ll take it.

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