Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / John R

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 22/04/2014

Near the end of a day’s shooting yesterday I asked Peg how many suitcases she thought we had photographed.  She went to her computer and checked the database.  We were up to 248 (out of 420) with two left to do before we shut down for the day.   So we are well past the halfway point, and I was really cheered that we have made it so far.  I shot the first case in March of 2011 and haven’t really been paying attention to the numbers, so it was a very pleasant surprise to see our progress.

John’s briefcase is particularly interesting, with a varied collection of items.  All of the onionskin papers in the background are English language word and sentence exercises.  It is possible he worked at General Electric for a time as he saved the pension and insurance plan brochures.  And he was clearly a fan of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Dwight Eisenhower, Mickey Rooney as well as cheesecake shots of women.  The reporter’s notebook is especially interesting as it is full of a stream of conscious like composition in  his beautiful handwriting.

Thanks for all the support and interest in the project.  Cheers,  Jon

Wrong

Posted in Flowers, Nature, Plants, Seasons, Weather by joncrispin on 16/04/2014

I’m sorry, but this just seems wrong.  Mid April and 3 inches of snow.  I’m pretty sure these guys will survive though.

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Feist / Peter Pan

Posted in Music by joncrispin on 09/04/2014

I have been a huge fan of the Canadian singer Leslie Feist for a long time.  When I heard she was playing the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, I got online and scored two tickets.  When I looked at the date, I saw that I was also scheduled to shoot the final dress rehearsal of the UMASS production of “Peter Pan”.  A bit of a bummer, but since I have to work, Cris is going with one of her grad students.  I am sure it will be great.

Check out these two videos.  Here and here.

Willard Suitcases / Anna H / Talk in Albany

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 03/04/2014

After a bit of a break, we were back to shooting more of the suitcases yesterday.  It was a productive day, and after the intensity of the Kickstarter appeal, it was nice to be back to doing what is the most important part of the project.

Anna’s case was in nice condition and the wicker pattern was lovely.

For those of you in the Albany area, I would love to see you at a presentation I will be giving at The University at Albany next Thursday the 10th.  I will be talking about the suitcases and some of my other work to Katherine Van Acker’s class on documentary studies.  Here are the details:  Uptown Campus, Science Library Room SL G02, 5.45 pm.  On our way back from Rotterdam yesterday, Peg drove me around the campus so I could get my bearings, and the first thing I noticed is that parking could be very difficult.  There is a very small visitors lot (link to campus map), so if you plan on attending I would encourage you to get there early.

Found Earring

Posted in Family, Jon Crispin, Nature by joncrispin on 23/03/2014

Cristine really likes earrings and when I travel, I will often pick up a pair for her if they are unique and not too expensive.  On one of my trips somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Erie, I saw a pair made from glass that had been worn smooth by the action of the sand and waves. /  About a month ago we went for a long snowshoe walk in the woods above our house.  Later that day she realized that one of the earrings was missing.  It always bums her out to lose one.  I am usually optimistic about finding lost jewelry; it seems to be a Krieghoff family thing that has come down through the generations.  My mom definitely had it and I got it from her.   Late this morning I was outside just off the deck taking a leak and I looked down and saw this.

With all the freezing and thawing, it was stuck pretty well in ice, but I ran inside and grabbed a butter knife and dug it out.  The non-silver metal loop is a bit rusty, but it will clean up nicely.

Travels

Posted in Architecture, Art, Bridges, Buildings, Cities, Family, Jon Crispin, Rivers, Travel, Uncategorized, Water by joncrispin on 19/03/2014

It has been a while since I’ve posted.  I think it was a combination of having the Kickstarter campaign wrap up and feeling a bit of “Kharma Congestion” as my friend Alex would call it.

Last week Cris and I drove to Toronto.  She was presenting at the annual CIES Conference and I was tagging along for fun.

We went out to an amazing South Indian restaurant called Udupi Palace and it was the best.  Cristine’s favorite food in the world is a paper masala dosa, and Udupi has the best ones she has ever found outside of India.  After we ate, we were waiting for a streetcar to take us back downtown and I saw this window display.  Love the hands.

I was very excited to get back to Toronto to be able to see the Thompson Collection of Cornelius Krieghoff paintings at The Art Gallery of Ontario.  Here is a previous post about my relation to him.  The museum has a ton of his work.  I was really jazzed to see so many in one place.

This is a detail from one of his paintings that is a sort of self-portrait of his family (in the sleigh).

I especially liked reading the bottom paragraph here.  It helps to explain where I might get my own disregard for authority.

After Toronto, we drove to Pittsburgh for another of Cris’ conferences.  On the way we had to stop at Niagara Falls.  I hadn’t been on the Canadian side for years, and it was a beautiful day.  (Unlike many, I also really like the American side.)

In Toronto we scored some of these great Roots mittens.  And I bought this hat in the Soviet Union in 1982, a very long time ago.

Next stop was Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs on the Lake Road just outside of Meadville.  I grew up eating these and was thrilled to see that they had opened for the season just a few days earlier.  I rarely post pictures of food, but oh man are these good.  Too cold to eat at the picnic tables, but two with the works hit the spot.

We got to Pittsburgh in time for a nice walk along the River.  It is a fantastic city that somehow remains largely intact.  The downtown is full of beautiful buildings that are mostly in good shape, and it seems, just waiting for a revival of sorts.  It is hard to imagine why young artists aren’t flocking here and making it home.  It is such a cheap place to live, with amazing loft spaces right in town, and tons of culture.  And the rivers!

So many beautiful steel bridges.  This one leads to PNC Park, just across the river from downtown.

Here’s a view looking back across the water.

Our hotel was very near to Penn Station and on Sunday morning I took a walk over to check it out.  As a kid I had traveled through it on the train, and the upper floors are now converted to “luxury” apartments.  This is a section of the dome which used to be the main entryway from the street.

It was sad to see the “modern” waiting room like this.

With only two trains a day, and nothing running North/South there isn’t much activity.  And the times aren’t particularly convenient.

Thanks for checking in.  I’ll try to get on a more regular schedule of posting.  Tomorrow Peggy Ross is coming over and we are meeting with my friends at Small Batch Books to start work on the Suitcases book reward.  I’ll keep updating progress on the project, and plan to be back shooting next week.

Again

Posted in Jon Crispin, Transportation, Travel, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 06/03/2014

In the late afternoon of 28 October, 2011 I picked up Peter at Union and he and I were heading home for the weekend.  Cristine was working in the Middle East, and the weather forecast was calling for a major storm.  I was partway through the first suitcases Kickstarter campaign, and feeling unsure as to how it would all work out.  We stopped at the first rest area on the MASS PIKE to get gas (and I think a packet of Hostess Cup Cakes).  I looked at my phone and something like 80 emails that had just come in.  I really thought there was a problem with my account and that the server was just resending old mail that I had already viewed.  When I looked closely I realized that all the email had come from Kickstarter.  They had just featured me as a “project we love”, and I immediately met my goal.   That early winter storm rolled in big time and we were without electricity for the next 2 days. Wild./  Yesterday, I was shooting the suitcases in Rotterdam and was aware that the current Kickstarter appeal was ending in the evening.  As I was driving east on the pike towards home, I stopped for gas at that same rest area, looked at my phone and saw this ($20,879 pledged with 341 backers, funding successful).  It seemed just right that I discovered that both projects had gone over the top at the same location.

Willard Suitcases Projec

This is one of yesterday’s cases.  It belonged to Joseph K.

Thank you all for your support and interest in the project.  And a huge thanks to the folks at Kickstarter for running a great organization, and providing a venue that enables independent projects like this one to be successful.

Willard Suitcases / Over The Top

Posted in Architecture, Asylums, Dance, Hadley Hall, History, Landscape, Willard Asylum by joncrispin on 04/03/2014

Well, it seems we made it.  Late this afternoon we went over the $20,000 goal, with 324 backers.  There is still just under 24 hours to go and I am hoping a few more folks will come in to be a part of the community.

I couldn’t find a date on this scan of a bird’s-eye  view of Willard, but I am guessing late 19th Century.  The main building in the foreground is Chapin House, which sadly, is now gone.

And this photograph is from a Hallowe’en party in Hadley Hall (also where movies were shown).  I assume it was taken sometime in the 1950′s.  The band almost certainly are not patients, but the dancers and the folks sitting around the dance floor would mostly be.  This room still exists, in fact it is where Karen Miller and I spoke at the Romulus Historical Society event this past summer.

Every time I write up a post here, or update the Kickstarter page, I find myself wanting to over-use the word  “amazing”.  This whole project is that way for me.  Amazing that I have access to the cases, amazing that the cases even exist,  the amazing lives that are revealed by the contents of the cases, the amazing people that are working with me (thanks Peg, and everyone at the museum), and  the amazing people that are supporting this work through Kickstarter and in so many other ways.  There, I think I got it out of my system.  But, you know, it is really something to be a part of all this.   Cheers everyone, and thanks.  I am back shooting the suitcases tomorrow, and hope to have an update in the evening when I get back.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Posted in Architecture, Art, Asylums, Cities, People, Transportation, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 03/03/2014

It has seemed that for the past three weeks, my life has been consumed by the Kickstarter appeal.  It has been a great, if not intense, experience.  What I like most is that I am meeting such interesting people who are drawn to the project.  Paul Mullins is a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and he just posted a great piece on his wordpress site.  Here is the link.  I like how serious academics have taken to thinking and writing about the suitcases.

Last Wednesday I drove to Exeter, NH to photograph the poet Willie Perdomo for Poets & Writers Magazine.  He is an amazing guy, and we had a tremendous dialogue about art, creativity, and life in general.  The story will run in the May/June issue.  I’ll post a link when it is online.  He generously gave me a copy of his new book and I had fun reading it on the train back from New York on Saturday evening.

I was in the city for a memorial service for the husband of a good friend who I met through the suitcases project.  I am reminded again and again how way beyond photography the cases are for me.  The service was very moving, and as these events often do, it reinforced the idea that friendship, love and a simple appreciation of being alive and healthy are what it is all about.  So thanks to all of you who are reaching out.  The connections mean so much to me.

Willard Suitcases / Ethel S

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 02/03/2014

Ethel  S came to Willard with some beautiful quilts, which I have reason to believe she had made herself.

She also had some interesting photographs, and her Bible was a very nice edition.

And for some reason she arrived with a complete set of cutlery.

I especially liked this spoon, which was most likely hers as a child.

I often find myself wondering what impact her faith had in how she coped with life at the asylum.

As you can see, Ethel was admitted on 3 July, 1930.

Three days to go on the Kickstarter appeal.  Thank you all for your support.  I have every confidence we will make it.  I especially want to thank those of you who have increased your pledges.  I am a bit overwhelmed by all this.  You all must know that this is not so much about me and my life as a photographer, but about the  people who lived at Willard, those who took care of them, and all of you who are a part of the project.  Have a great week everybody.

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