Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A / Peggy Ross

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 24/11/2014

I was back in Rotterdam at the storage facility shooting suitcases this past Friday.  The last time I was there, Peggy and I were only able to get part way through Joseph A’s possessions, and I was really eager to finish up.  I posted about that day here.  Most of what was in his two large trunks was clothing, and as I have said before, setting up this sort of shot is difficult for me.

Thank goodness for Peg.  I have mentioned before just how important she is to the project.  I probably would have never done the second Kickstarter without her, or for that matter, even thought about shooting all 400 of the suitcases.  Friday was a good case in point.  Every single article of clothing in Joseph’s collection had been assigned a catalogue number by the museum.  This meant taking the objects out of their archival boxes, keeping track of the small pieces of paper on which those numbers were written, hiding the numbers in the folds of the clothes so they weren’t visible in the photographs, setting up the shot, taking the photographs, rematching all the numbers with the articles, and finally putting them back into their designated storage boxes.  We worked for about four hours on this one trunk; had I been alone it would have taken days.

And in addition to all of this detail work, she helps to organize the shots, and sees things that I would otherwise miss.  When we were putting Joseph’s clothes away, she pointed out that his initials had been embroidered onto the collar of his pajamas, and it makes for a lovely picture.

So a huge thank you to Peg for her organizational skills, hard work, and dedication to the project.  I couldn’t do this without her.

Sunday Evening

Posted in Cemeteries, Food, Friends, Graveyards, History, Jon Crispin, Nature, Plants, woods by joncrispin on 16/11/2014

cornchowder

I made this corn chowder recipe tonight.  Perfect for a cold Sunday.  I always buy extra ears of sweet corn during the summer and freeze what we don’t eat for days like this.  Very nice; give it a try sometime.

One of the great things about the suitcases project is hearing from people who find other work that is related to institutionalization. Charlie Seton sent me this link today.  What an interesting project.  Thanks Charlie.  And my great buddy Hank who has been following the suitcases from the beginning sent this link about Letchworth Village in Rockland County.  It is interesting to me that surnames are used on the commemorative plaque.

I know some of you know a lot about plants.  I started seeing these guys in the early Autumn.  I don’t think they are plants that lost their leaves; I am quite sure that this is the whole deal.

And I have discovered some new trails above the house.  Before the snow last week I saw a few of these evergreen-like plants that I have never seen before.  If any of you can help identify them, I would love to know.

Sorry the top is out of focus.  I only had my phone with me and as this little guy was only a few inches long, there wasn’t much depth of field.

Wishing you all a great week, my dear online friends.

First Snow with Olive

Posted in Dogs, Weather by joncrispin on 14/11/2014

We had a lovely light snow today.  Olive was a bit confused by it, but ultimately had fun running around.

Willard Suitcases / Thelma R

Posted in Jon Crispin, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 11/11/2014

I have been working hard to continue uploading suitcases to the willardsuitcases site.  I have just put up Thelma R’s case and it is one of my favorites.  For those of you who are new to the project, you can see what is up so far here.

Berlin

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Architecture, Buildings, Community, Government, History, Travel by joncrispin on 10/11/2014

I moved to Berlin in January of 1986.  I really needed to get away from Ithaca, and I had some issues which needed attention.  I spent mornings at the Goethe Institute studying German and the rest of the day photographing.  I was drawn to the city because of the division; one could see the extremes of Capitalism on the West side, then go through a checkpoint on the same day and see what the Commies were up to.  It was like stepping back forty years.

I like the phrase “wer mauert hat’s nötig” which I always took to mean “whoever builds walls needs them”.  Which is relevant here as the East Germans built the thing and then called it an “anti-facist barrier”.

In looking over my contact sheets this morning I realized that there are very few people in any of my wall photographs.  It always amazed me that even on the West side, people stayed away from it (except the graffiti folks who must have worked at odd hours, as I never saw anyone writing on the thing).

I used to like to take the bus to Steinstücken and wander around.  It was an odd little Western enclave almost totally surrounded by the East.  You can read about it here.  There was a rail line running straight through it and you could stick your head around a corner and be face to face with a guard tower.  It always seemed a likely place for a crossing, but I never heard of one. / I met a lot of Berliners and was always interested to hear stories of unique situations with the wall.  I was once told that at some locations there were gates where Westerners could use a key to access their gardens in the East.  Probably not true, but interesting to think about.

Here is Checkpoint Charlie at night.

The wall has been down for 25 years now.  I seriously doubt it was Reagan’s “Mr Gorbachev, bring down this wall” plea that had anything to do with it opening up.  More like the East Germans made some really stupid mistakes, which is not surprising as they were running a completely effed up and vile organization.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A. and a presentation in Auburn, NY

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 31/10/2014

I am back shooting suitcases after a bit of a break.  Peg has been traveling as have I, and it feels great to be working on the project again. / Joseph A. has a huge number of items in the collection.  There were about 15 museum boxes in one of the big storage containers.  It is always a bit intimidating with so many artifacts, especially when a large number of the items are clothing.  In Joseph’s case it was interesting because half of the clothes were women’s.  It wasn’t until we got deep into the setup that we found this card with the “Wife’s clothing” writing on it.  As with most of the information that we glean from the objects, we can only guess the circumstances of Joseph’s admission to Willard.  In this case though, it is very likely that his wife was deceased and he brought all her things with him.  (This included a ton of household items such as sheets, towels, napkins, etc.)  Very sad and touching.

I will be presenting the project at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY on (next) Wednesday the 5th of November.  The event is at the Auburn Public Theatre at 7.00 PM and there is a $10.00 admission fee ($5.00 for members).  I will also be talking about my NY State prison documentation project.  If you follow this blog, please come up and say hi.  It would be great to meet you.

Potato Leek Soup

Posted in Food by joncrispin on 25/10/2014

Nice farmer’s market today.  Looks like a potato leek soup is in the offing. / The almond croissants at Amherst Coffee are amazing.

Nor’easter Walk

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Labradors, sticks, Water, woods by joncrispin on 23/10/2014

There is a Nor’easter spinning around New England today.  It is always a bit odd to have weather move in from the East.  I have been spending a lot of time in front of the computer editing photographs and answering email, and thought the dog and I could use some time in the woods.

I have written before about these little plants that grow around here and, as usual, I can never remember what they are called.  The recent rains have really brought them out.

Fantastic stick action for Olive.

In addition to the usual horse shit and acorns that she usually finds and eats, she also ate some of these mushrooms before I could stop her.

Anybody have any idea if they are poisonous?  Or hallucinogenic?  Let’s hope not.  Ach, puppies.

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Transition

Posted in Animals, Beer, Birds, Community, Dogs, Travel by joncrispin on 19/10/2014

I have been back from England for several days, but had some images from there I wanted to post, so this will be a bit transitional.

Cris and I had a nice walk in the Green Park and in St James’s Park on Saturday before heading back up to Stratford upon Avon.

There was an amazing exhibit at the entrance of St James’s called “Fields of Battle – Lands of Peace“.  Photographer Michael St. Maur Sheil went to major sites of the first world war and documented what remains from 100 years ago.  It is a brilliant idea, and executed really well.  It is wild to see huge photographs mounted outside.

Whenever I drive from London to Stratford upon Avon I stop at the Oxford Services on the M40.  Just above the carpark is a hillock where you get a great view of the countryside.  I think I might have posted a similar photograph from a previous trip.

We basically did the same walk on Sunday that we had done the week before.

This time it was very misty.  I am happy to say that the horse with the red coat had his friend back.

The nice thing about doing walks in different weather conditions is that you see the landscape in an entirely different way.

Although the beer looked pretty much the same.

As did the outdoor gents.  (Gentlemen is such a nice word; it should be used more.)

After the Sunday roast at the pub, we went next door to Snowshill Manor.  The whole place is really bizarre, and very interesting.  The gardens are really nice and I was really pleased to see this Green Man water spigot.  I have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of the Green Man; it is very pagan but you can still find him in some early churches in England.  I think there are 4 in Shakespeare’s church in Stratford upon Avon.  (There is also a great XTC song about him.)

It is nice to be home, although for some reason England is always the place I feel the most comfortable.  But I live here, and it is a beautiful part of the world.  The Olive was really glad to see us, and after the recent rains she has been able to find water (and mud) everywhere.

Foundling Update / Willard Suitcases

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 15/10/2014

There is a nice comment on the Foundling post from Nikki Soppelsa.  She reminded me that she was indeed one of the people who told me about the collection in London.  Check out her great blog here.  And thanks Nikki.  Also my friend Connie Frisbee Houde sent me the link about the fabric exhibit at The Foundling.

These hair pins were in a case when I last shot in Rotterdam.  I don’t have my notes with me to credit the owner, but I’ll try to update when I am back in the studio.

I also wanted to mention that the folks at outhistory.org sent me an interesting link about Lucy Ann Lobdell, who was a patient at Willard.  And Claire Potter posted about the project on their blog.  Thanks to Jonathan Ned Katz and Claire.

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