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Ithaca is People: Wendy Houseworth

The #IthacaisPeople Files

Week 6: All or Nothing: It's the Entire Album

It's Monday. Everyone's favorite day of the week. Well, we happen to have the perfect antidote to the "Monday blues", brought to you by Wendy Houseworth, this week's @VisitIthaca Instagrammer. Let her beautiful landscapes and thoughtful captions whisk you away to a place of calmness, stillness, and awareness through the gorgeous moments she captures today, and every day for the entire week. Follow us on Instagram to catch a glimpse of Ithaca through Wendy's eyes, and read on for an interview that will leave you with a sense of peace... and the name of an album you just have to listen to.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Trumansburg. So I am a true local.

So what do you think about the changes that have been happening over the recent years?

Trumansburg is awesome. Trumansburg is like the Brooklyn of Ithaca. It’s like this little hip location to go.

That’s what I’ve heard. We’ve said that numerous times around here.

If it were like that when I was growing up it would have been amazing. I wouldn’t have come to Ithaca so often!

(Laughter)

Have you ever lived anywhere else?

Yeah. I spent pretty much my entire 20’s moving around, trying to find that place that felt like home. But I kept coming back to Ithaca. Ithaca’s home.

What was it like for you growing up here?

Um, I had a lot of freedom as a child, so I explored a lot. I would go outside and not come home until dinner. There were waterfalls that were close to my house so um, I would go explore them independently. And we spent a lot of time on the lake, at either cottages or on our boat, so a lot of my experiences had to do with water and nature and doing a lot of that either alone or in a group. So it was…it was a great place to grow up.

So what is your favorite memory here?

(Big sigh) So that’s a lifetime of memories right there. I think it’s more of a place rather than like, a specific memory. Um, we would spend a month on the lake in a cottage every year until probably my early teens, and for me, that cottage…at the time, I hated going there as a kid, but looking back on it… it really gave me a lot of space to grow as a person so it holds a really special place in my heart as a kind of retreat; a way to get away from the pressure of normal life.

Isn’t it funny how hindsight is 20/20?

It usually is.

Yes. So do you listen to local music?

I do.

Who is your favorite local musician or band?

There are so many. There are so many talented musicians. Um, I think Johns Brown’s Body is probably my favorite. Their music is phenomenal and timeless. Like you could listen to it ten years ago and you could listen to it today and it still feels relevant. There’s always a positive message, and it’s uplifting.

Yep. They were around back when I was in high school.

Yeah. And they were my favorite band.

Me too!

(Laughter)

Name a song that you think could be the theme song for a summer in Ithaca.

Wow. (Long pause) So, I’m the type of person who listens to entire albums um, not just a single song. I like the continuity of listening to something from beginning to end. So um, I think I would have to pick and album, rather than a song.

OK. We’ll take it.

And I think it would be Stan Getz… (whispers) and I can’t think of the name of the album. Can we cheat and look it up?

Yes.

(We're Googling) It might be “Girl from Ipanema”?

Yeah that’s a good one.

Yeah. But it’s like uplifting but mellow…

(Our computer is very slow. Still waiting)

Yes. That album. Girl from Ipanema.

There you have it. So everybody should listen to that ASAP. Moving on, what is your favorite summer activity?

I am a cyclist so I like to be on the road as long as it’s not snowing. So…pretty much any time of year. Well, except those 4-6 months of snow. Um, that’s hard though because I also like to hike, I like to swim, I like to do yoga outside, but in Ithaca you have the ability to do an amazing number of things anywhere. Anywhere you go you have pretty much open space where you can explore.

True. So what do you do?

I am a graphic designer and I handle marketing accounts for Rasa Spa and Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School.

Ah.

So I balance my week between two places. I also am a mother to a six-year-old, and my partner has an 8-year-old. So, two proper jobs, and an interesting mom scenario.

(Laughs) mmm hmmm… So when did you start taking photographs?

Um… in middle school. So I was probably 13 or 14? The technology teacher offered a photography class, and I had a Pentax k1000 that I think was a hand-me-down from my brother and I fell in love with the entire process. So, composing a photograph and developing the film, and then developing each individual photo so the process of being in the darkroom. That entire process was… instantly I fell in love with it. As I moved around I found different darkrooms that I could use and be part of different photography clubs while I traveled. Once digital came around I was kind of slow to take on to it. It felt like such a departure from the whole process that I was used to. And I had to train myself to look at it as a different form of art…a different medium. And to think of it as “ok, well now I have my digital camera and I can edit it in Photoshop,” and a lot of things are similar.

It is entirely different.

You lose a lot of the need to um… capture a moment with precision that you had to with film.

Right.

With a digital camera, you can play around with all of your different settings, you find what works the best, you take a photo, and you have instant gratification and you look at it.

Right, and it’s true for video and audio.

Yeah.

I’ve heard that from a lot of editors from different industries. You lose something there. Do you ever have an opportunity to go to a darkroom?

I don’t anymore.

I think there’s one at TC3.

There might be. With my current life, time is limited.

Of course.

So digital now works for me.

(Laughter)

I can edit from home when I have time, and I moved from carrying around my big Canon to a lighter camera that I could have on me all the time. And that made digital much more approachable to me. I still can catch quality image shots, but not have to lug around this five-pound object while carrying my kid and kid stuff and… life.

Right (laughs). Yeah, I hate carrying around life.

Life can be heavy!

Do you have a favorite spot to take photographs or a favorite subject?

Um… I gravitate towards nature shots. I feel like taking a moment to pause and be present with what’s happening around you um… really allows you the time to reflect on who you are and where you are and where you want to be. And with nature shots… you have so many different things going on around you. You have sounds and smells and… usually, in the case of the kind of photos I’m shooting, some kind of sense of calm. You either have water or sunsets…

I’ve seen your photos, they are very “Zen”.

Thanks. Or birds. So there’s usually… I like to think of my photography as an invitation to the audience to just pause, and to just be present. With that photograph, with themselves, with the words that I sometimes choose to share.

Mm hm, I’ve seen those too.

Hopefully you read them when you saw them.

Yes.

Um, so…there’s definitely a nature thing. I also really enjoy street photography when I travel but I don’t post those photos as often.

Oh, I see. Well, ok. We’re nearing the end here. If you could describe yourself- wait actually no not “if you could” because you’re going to do it right now.

(Laughter)

So describe yourself in three words.

Ahhhhhhh (whispers) I was afraid you were gonna ask me that. Um (long pause). I’m not gonna say “outdoorsy” because I’ve seen that recently done. Even though it does fit.

You can use the same one! If that suits you and that’s the way you describe yourself.

Then perhaps “nature enthusiast”.

Nature-enthusiast.

I’m a nature-enthusiast.

OK.

Um… I’m a pretty "calm" person. I like to think that very often the photographs that I’m taking are a reflection of how I feel internally. So, my photographs are sort of artistic, so I would consider myself and artistic person. Um… so… “Creative”.

Ok so we’ve got nature enthusiast, calm, and creative.

Yeah.

And then, final question: If you could describe Ithaca in one word what would it be?

I think I nailed it before, with just simply that Ithaca is home.

Home.

I mean, there is such an amazing sense of community when you’re in Ithaca. I traveled and loved many different places in the world. And I kept coming back here. And it isn’t just because my family’s here. It’s because there is a strong like-minded community of creative, artistic, brilliant people that you don’t often see in such a small town.

Thank you, Wendy. And now, let's all take the time to be present. Be in the moment. Be calm. Just breathe.

Follow @VisitIthaca on Instagram for more.

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