Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / Car

Posted in Automobiles, History, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 24/02/2015

  Margaret D arrived at Willard with almost her entire household as well as her car.  Which in this case was a Dodge Brothers Coupe that she bought new in 1934.  Here is what Hemmings has to say about it.  An amazing automobile.

This is the first page of the notebook where she kept track of trips that she took in it.  I am quite familiar with the first legs of the journey, having grown up in Western Pennsylvania.  Especially the Salamanca, NY to Bradford, PA leg.  And my great friend and college roommate Gail grew up in Ridgeway, where I have spent quite a bit of time.

I am just blown away when I think about the stories contained in these suitcases.  Thanks for following along with me.

Guest Photograph

Posted in Architecture by joncrispin on 23/02/2015

I have known my friend Alex Ross for a very long time.  He has been an influence on me in more ways than I can list here.  Although we don’t live near each other, we speak on the phone on most days.  When I first started thinking of myself as a photographer, it was Alex whose eye I most admired.  He just sees things in a way that no other photographer does.  He sends me prints from time to time, but more often will send an image through email.  Last night he attached this shot to a note about creativity.  He said nothing about it, it was just at the bottom of the email as if it was an afterthought.  It just blew me away, and I thought it would be nice to share it on this cold Monday morning.  Thanks Alex, for everything.

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Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / Question * Update!

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 18/02/2015

Yesterday we had a very productive day shooting more of Margaret D’s possessions.  Every once in a while, something completely unexpected pops up.  Among the many photographs in Margaret’s collection was this picture postcard.  It was so unlike everything else that she had that it was a bit of a shock.  There was no information on the back, but I thought I immediately knew the identity of the woman in the bathing suit.  Peg wasn’t so sure.  So I am opening it up for all of you to help us figure out who this is.  In a few days, I will post my guess, along with more images from the shoot.  As I mentioned before, Margaret came to Willard with almost an entire household.  It will take us months to get through it all, but is a remarkable look into her life.

Wow, my sister Karen nailed it.  Ann Miller.  Look in the comments to see the other responses.  Here is the original that she tracked down on the web.

Thanks Sis!  And I owe Peggy a beer.  My money was on Bess Myerson.

Paperwhites, Again

Posted in Flowers, Nature, Plants, Weather by joncrispin on 16/02/2015

This batch is just starting to blossom.  Five bulbs for less than 5 bucks.  It is simply the easiest and cheapest way to momentarily escape the winter.  A glass bowl, some small stones, a few bulbs, a bit of water, et voila!

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Willard Suitcases / William G

Posted in History, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 13/02/2015

I uploaded William G’s case to the willardsuitcases.com site today.  There is a lot of history here.  The Fort Randolph towels give a hint as to where his military service occurred.  And he must have had some connection to the Boy Scouts.

You can check out more of what he chose to bring to Willard with him here.  This is one of my favorite collections.

Willard Suitcases / Henry S / Prints

Posted in Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 11/02/2015

I keep moving along with uploading cases to the site.  This morning I was working on Henry S’s beautiful old leather case and was reminded that when we shot it, there was some confusion as to the contents.

At first it seemed possible that this was Henry’s collection of nuts (many of the patients were allowed to walk around the grounds at Willard). But on closer inspection we saw the small hole at the back left of the case which indicated that some small critter was using it as a cache for its nutritional needs.

I am often asked if prints of the project are for sale, and I have finally set up the system to be able to buy them.  Just go to the site and click on a case, then click the image, then click the blue button “Add to Cart”.  There are three sizes available, all on archival matte paper, printed and signed by me.  The images look great on a computer screen, but the prints are something else entirely.  Similar to the Kickstarter appeals, all proceeds go directly back into the project.  I would be grateful for the support.

French Chicken in a Pot / Vera Louise Krieghoff

Posted in Family, Food, History, Jon Crispin by joncrispin on 10/02/2015

Late yesterday afternoon I made a French chicken in a pot.  I haven’t made it in a while and it was terrific.  In the evening as I was finishing washing up my mom’s well and tree platter, I turned it over and saw this inscription, which I had never noticed.  It was a bit confusing at first, as I was pretty sure it was a wedding gift, but on that day (June 18, 1940) she became Vera Louise Crispin and forever gave up Vera Louise Krieghoff.  (She was proud to have become Mrs. Robert L. Crispin; in fact when the ways of addressing women started to change in the early 70s and she would get mail addressed to MS Vera Crispin, she would write on the envelope “no one at this address by that name” and return it to the post office.  She had a tremendous sense of humor and was in her own way quite subversive.)

I am guessing it could have been a wedding shower gift given to her sometime before the big day.  Here is the mark on the back, but unfortunately the top is obscured and I can’t tell who made it.  If any of you recognize it, I would very much like to know.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D

Posted in Asylums, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/02/2015

On Tuesday, Peg and I started in on Margaret D’s cases.  By all accounts she came to Willard with her entire household, which included a car.  There is so much of hers in the collection that we literally did not know where or how to start.  The first shot we took is of this remnant of a shipping label, and it seemed as good a place as any to begin.  She came to Willard from the Mount Morris TB Hospital, but I haven’t yet seen anything with a date on it to know for sure when she arrived.

It will take us weeks to get through her things, but now that we have started, I feel excited to proceed.  I will continue to post about her as we move ahead.

My son Peter sent me a link to an interesting article in Sunday’s Washington Post.  It is about a woman who struggles with a lot of the same issues that many Willard patients must have experienced.  Here is the link.

Willard Suitcases / Henry L

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 31/01/2015

I have just uploaded a few more cases to the willardsuitcases.com site.  Henry L’s cardboard box is one of the more interesting in the collection.  This photograph was in the Exploratorium exhibit, and it is one that my friend Alex Ross printed at about 48 inches wide.  It looks amazing huge.

Peg is back from her travels, and we hope to begin shooting again sometime this week. We are both eager to get back to it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Willard Suitcases / Thomas Y

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 30/01/2015

One of my goals in the early part of this year is to work very hard at uploading the cases to willardsuitcases.com.  Today I edited Thomas Y’s case.  Here is a shot of one of the locks.  Sometimes I find myself just opening and closing them over and over; the sound can be very evocative.

When I started this project, I truly had no idea of the way that it could touch people.  On a daily basis I get email and comments from folks who stumble across the photos online.  I save them all, and sometimes I am awed by how the work is perceived by people whose lives have been touched by mental illness.  Today, a comment was posted by Daphne and since it was put up publicly, I hope that she won’t mind if I quote her here.

“I just saw this. oh my, I am so humbled for those who you make alive and human again. They were just like us in many ways. To be shrunk into ONE suitcase…is beyond me. I have a lifetime of mental illness in my family, and I have to say, they are just like us…all in all…as you show. Thank you.”

No, Daphne…..thank you.

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