Allison Usavage ’11 is a photographer and the founder of whatsgoodithaca.com, an online news outlet based in Ithaca. Fueled by her own photography and reporting, What’s Good shows off inspirational people and organizations in the community.
Usavage created the website not just to show off her work behind the camera but also to inspire action and community engagement by recognizing people, businesses and projects for positive change. The website is categorized into five different sections: community, environment, food, gathering and learning. Each category has different Q&As with people or organizations throughout the area that aim to have a positive impact on the Ithaca community.
To fund What’s Good, Usavage constructed a mobile photo booth with the help of the Ithaca Generator, a program for people in the community to come together in order to collaborate on ideas and work on projects together. She said she hopes the booth will help people to continue to inspire one another.
Staff Writer Ashley Wolf spoke with Usavage to discuss her work throughout Ithaca and her goals in photography.
Ashley Wolf: How did your hobby of photography begin?
Allison Usavage: I took a lot of photography classes in high school, and that’s what I went to college for. When I went to college, I wasn’t sure between film and photography. Then I realized that taking one photo and getting a good photograph is hard enough, taking 30 frames per second for film is crazy.
AW: How did you get the idea for What’s Good?
AU: It started because I really liked using my camera as a tool to tell stories. I personally didn’t have an outlet to do that anywhere. I felt that people were seeing what I was creating. The idea of What’s Good came out of a more selfish place of wanting my work to be seen or have an impact on someone. There are a lot of amazing journalism projects going on in Ithaca, and I don’t see myself as competition with them. I see What’s Good as a chance to celebrate rather than dig into a journalistic point of it.
AW: Why did you add the Q&A part to What’s Good? Why not just keep it to photographs of the different inspirations around Ithaca?
AU: Photographs can’t inspire action on their own. That is what I wanted to do: Inspire action in the community. The Q&A format was something I already knew how to do. The Q&A format is somehow easier to digest. I worked in website design for a few years after college and observed that people have short attention spans when they’re looking at something on a screen. I wanted to make sure what I was putting out was something that would keep people’s attention and people would actually want to read it, look at it or get something out of it. The Q&A section allows people to pick and choose what they want to pay attention to of the content that I’m putting out there.
AW: What is the photo booth part of the What’s Good website about?
AU: I wanted to make a way to have people have justified selfies at events. At weddings I worked at, I put a camera on a tripod with a clicker as a photo booth, and people really loved it. Someone asked me to do it for a community event a few months ago, and I thought I should just put the setup I’ve been doing for years in a box and rent it out.
AW: Besides What’s Good, what other projects have you or are you working on?
AU: There are a lot of projects that I’ve started on my own, like video work. That’s just something that I really wanted to do because I wanted to try to include video work that was mine. I worked on a lot of people’s films in college, but I wanted something to film that was my own that I thought might have an impact. A lot of freelance work has come out of shooting a video on the Wide Awake Bakery.
AW: What do you see as the next step of What’s Good?
AU: After working for two years after college, I had saved up a little bit of money and given myself a flexibility to really focus on building a platform and content that was strong and building an audience that trusted me. Now that I have a solid audience and I have a solid content strategy, I am working on creating a business model that can sustain me and that can sustain What’s Good.