I was at Yale today talking about the suitcases to Jessica Helfand’s freshman seminar class on visual biography. She was one of the first people to connect with the project and has been a huge supporter from the get-go. This is the third year I have spoken to the class and it always helpful to get feedback from the students on my work with the cases. / After the class I usually head over to the School of Medicine Library and visit The Cushing Center. It is one of the most amazing displays of someone’s life one can ever see. I have posted about it here and here, and if any of you are in New Haven, it is absolutely not to be missed. / Thanks to Jessica and her students for a great day.
Last Saturday I posted pictures from the Amherst Farmers’ Market. On Thursday I got an email from Casey at Old Friends Farm asking if he could use some of the photos in the farm’s weekly newsletter. I was more than happy to oblige and went into heavy negotiation mode. Pictures for flowers; quite a good deal for us both.
Earlier in the week I went to watch Cris teach an undergrad class in one of the UMASS School of Ed. buildings. The class meets in a now-closed elementary school auditorium. Down a hallway and behind a set of doors with a “NO ENTRY” sign was this school gymnasium. I can remember being a kid at the East End School in Meadville and being in a similar gym (they all look pretty much alike). I especially like the climbing ropes and the cargo net.
Today we drove to Williamstown to meet up with Peggy Ross, her husband Peter, and their friend Pierette who is visiting from France. We met at the Williams College Museum of Art and then walked into town for a beer. It is a lovely small New England town with 2 great museums (the other being the Clark, which is a gem).
Driving back along Route 2, I was compelled to stop and grab a few shots of the Deerfield River.
I hope to have the willardsuitcases.com site up and running tomorrow. I am so excited and will post an update as soon as it is online.
I have been getting a lot of great assignments from Poets & Writers lately. This past Friday I drove out to Eastern Massachusetts to meet and photograph Andre Dubus III. I had read quite a few reviews of his memoir “Townie” and was aware of his earlier novel ”House of Sand and Fog”. I had a wonderful time with him and got some really nice photographs. While I can’t put up any of the shots of him here until the story runs in the magazine, I can show these. / I always ask writers about how they physically create their work. I have lots of photographs of fingers tapping away at keyboards (both typewriter and computer),and shots of hands holding pens over paper. Andre is the first writer I have photographed who writes with pencil, and he was most happy to talk about his favorite. It is a Palomino Blackwing 602. I usually do an internet search for things about which I know little, and I found an interesting wikipedia entry about this particular pencil. Here is the link.
As you can see, he writes in lined composition notebooks. It is so interesting how entire books come out of this process. / In all ways was he was a most generous subject. He inscribed a copy of “Townie” for me and gave me a collection of his father’s short stories. I have just about finished the memoir and it is both harrowing and completely engaging. I’ll start on his dad’s stories next. / Huge thanks to P&W for the assignment and to Andre for an amazing experience. The story is scheduled to run in the November/December issue, and I will put up a link and some of my photographs when it is out.
I have never given much thought to whether or not I am an artist. And the whole idea of whether or not photography is an art is a whole ball of wax that I try to avoid. So when Pam Winfrey (whose idea it was to have the Exploratorium host the “Normal” exhibit) invited me to be part of an artist’s night, I said yes without giving it much thought. So it was a bit weird for me to be introduced to people as one of the artists whose work was on display. I’ll accept it for the time being but I doubt it will go to my head. The event was pretty cool. Since I was basically alone, I wandered around looking lost for a while before I ran into my refound friend Katie Hahren and her daughter Annie. That loosened things up a bit. Eventually Karen Miller and I ended up signing catalogues and chatting with guests. / One thing about San Francisco that I really like is that dogs seem to be accepted in most public places. When I was at the Exploratorium in February I met a 4 month old black lab who was on his way to work for only the second day. I can not imagine bringing the Pearl to an office job even now when she is 12 and mostly calm.
This is the new Exploratorium on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It is amazing. Go check it out if you ever get the chance.
I have been fortunate as a photographer to get into a number amazing buildings. Not many quite as incredible as the Stahl House in LA. Cristine’s sister Lynne and her husband John are docents there, and on Sunday evening we had the privilege to be in one of the most iconic mid-century homes in the world.
The story of the house is well documented so I will not go into it, but it is well worth reading about. Click on the Stahl House link above and you can read a bit more about it here.
The most amazing aspect of the house now is that it is still family owned, and they have graciously made it open to the public. For what is a very reasonable fee, small groups can have guided tours (possibly by Lynne and John) that allow visitors to experience something so rare that it is almost inconceivable. (Cristine looks quite at home in this shot.)
This is a stitched photograph (2 images) that is not perfect (one funky area that I noticed right away), but it shows the house pretty well at twilight. / Big thanks to the Stahl family, and especially to Lynne and John who have become experts in mid-century architecture and artifacts. They also docent at the Eames House, which is open to the public on a limited basis. / Go to the Stahl House website to poke around and set up a tour. If you are in LA it is easily one of the top 5 things to do.
My friend Charlotte X.C. Sullivan produced this lovely piece called “Paper Wins”
It is based on the idea of the “emotional complexity of choice” with the game Rock, Paper, Scissors in mind. She molded the papers over “river-smoothed” rocks and placed them on the floor of a large barn/artist’s space at Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst.
It became somewhat of a performance piece when she was de-installing it and the giant fan needed some help in blowing the papers away.
Cris and I are in DC visiting Peter. He is amazing and is doing really well. We took the time for a quick visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I can never get enough of it and I always come back to this part of the building which is near the Lunder Conservation Center. If any of you reading this are in the area and have never been here you really should make the effort. There is a great wood fired pizza place a couple of blocks away called The Matchbox. Get a small pizza and see some art!
Two of my friends from Meadville were killed in Viet Nam. Jim Rudd was a neighbor whom I knew quite well. We spent a lot of time together at the YMCA and I can remember his talking about his interest in Native American culture. He was a very sweet guy. He was a private in the Marines and died on 6 August, 1968.
I knew David Dragosavac less well, but Meadville was small and I am pretty sure we were on the Y swim team together at one point. David was a Sergeant in the Army and was killed on 1 April, 1970.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is really worth a visit. Very moving.
I just got back from shooting a great dance piece by Angie Hauser and Chris Aiken who are new dance faculty members at Smith. Their piece “Utopia Parkway” is totally improvised, as is the live music that goes along with it (Jesse Manno and Robert Benford). It only runs tomorrow night and Friday at Smith (20+21 September). It is totally great and shouldn’t be missed. If you in the area, go see it.
This is a bit of an experiment. When I was out at Willard recently, I shot the bowling alley in Hadley Hall and then went upstairs to the projection room. The lighting was the weirdest I have come across. I shoot most of this stuff in RAW, so that I have tons of latitude when it comes to editing the photos. I messed around with these images for a long time and I could NOT get the color to look good. The walls were yellowish and there were mixed fluorescents. Rather than get discouraged and stuff the whole idea of a post I decided to convert to black and white and see how they look online. Funny, since in the days of film I used to shoot this sort of thing in black and white much of the time.
The tradition for the projectionists was to write the name of the film and the date it was shown on the walls.
Lots of interesting films here. For example, “All Fall Down” was shown on 13 January, 1963, and Apache Rifles got a (Good) rating.
And here “The Glass Slipper” was shown on 14 April, 1956. And these were all 35mm prints!
What really interests me about the asylum having shown first run movies is that the residents of the institution were able to attend, as were the people who lived in the surrounding towns. From what I have been told, the townsfolk sat in the balcony and the asylum residents sat downstairs.
I like these notes for the projectionist. There must have been someone downstairs who could send some sort of signal in case of a problem.
The projection room seemed to me to be almost totally intact. The sheet of paper here might be hard to read online, but at the top of the list is “Back To The Future”.
Here’s another of the projection lenses. A beautifully made optic.
There was still quite a bit of paperwork lying around.
I was just blown away by this room and its contents.
It is really hard to put into words just how fortunate I am to get into places like this, and how important it is to me to be able to preserve images of something that very few people can see for themselves.
So, thank you all for checking in and encouraging me to do this kind of work. I am off to Rotterdam tomorrow to shoot more suitcases and will post an update to that project very soon.