Craig Williams sent me a link to an article that ran in the Trumansburg, NY weekly paper, and I wanted to pass it along. It is a very well thought out editorial on the potential closing of two Southern Tier psych centers (Willard is also mentioned). Here is the link. I thought of the above photo when the writer spoke about how the alternative to folks getting help in psych centers is to house them in prisons. The above photo is from a project I did in the 1980s photographing early 20th Century New York State prisons. This particular shot was taken in the Elmira Correctional Facility which would undoubtedly end up hosting some of the very people who would not be able to get treatment in the psych centers that are meant to close. I accept that it is all very complicated, but some logical planning on the State’s part should be encouraged.
On a somewhat connected note, yesterday I photographed a very moving interfaith service at the South Church in Springfield called “Creating a Peace-Full City”. There has been an awful spate of gun-related violence in Springfield this year, and many have come together to see if something positive could be done about it. I had never been in this church before and it is stunning.
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.
The New York State Museum did an amazing job conserving and cataloguing the suitcase collection. Three staffers did most of the work. Sarah Jastremsky, Christine Allen, and Kara Chambers worked for months on the project, and they each had their own style of wrapping. I have never been able to tell who did which case, but they all did an amazing job. This particular case represents one of those distinctive styles. / Peg and I always try very hard to return the suitcases to their original condition once we are done shooting.
And it is she who does most the work in this regard. Here is the result of rewrapping Leo R’s case; very close to the original and equally effective. She looks very proud and happy in this picture, as well she should. / From time to time I mention Peg in these posts and it bears saying again that I would have a very hard time doing this work without her help. She deserves a lot of the credit for what you see here and on willardsuitcases.com and I am so grateful that she is a partner on the project.
Leo’s case was one of many leather grips that we have photographed. There wasn’t much in it, but what was there was great. You can see by the label that he was admitted on 25 June, 1954.
I have never seen a Vaseline tube in this color. I wish they would have kept using it, as it is a shade of green that knocks me out.
I have been adding more cases to the suitcases site. Eleanor G’s just went up, which one of the larger collections of photographs. I’ll have more posted by the end of the week, just click on “The Cases” at the top of the page. Thanks for checking it out.
Peter and I had an interesting “one-two” today. We had lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl (amazing) and then headed down to the Mall to check out the events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the “I have a dream speech”. Ben’s had CSPAN on so we were able to see some of the proceedings on TV which was really great.
We got to the area near the Washington Monument just as the President started speaking. We were way back, but it was nice to be a part of the crowd. I really love DC. It is such an interesting city.
I also want to add a note to yesterday’s post. The document in the Shanghai Garden window is actually a “permit to raze”, which really bums me out. Once that little building is gone, it is gone for good. I am so glad I got to grab a photo before it was demolished.
This past Monday I began documenting the Willard suitcases again after not having done so since last September. I had stopped shooting at that time to prepare for the Exploratorium exhibit. The New York State Museum has given me permission to continue the project and it is both exciting and daunting, as there are still over 300 cases to photograph.
Craig Williams thought that Irma M.’s cases would be a good place to start, and so after getting set up, Peg and I began shooting in the late morning. Irma had several cases, and most of her possessions were in museum boxes.
There wasn’t much in the brown suitcase, but I liked the design of the fabric liner.
She was initially placed in Ward 3, South West
This large trunk had a couple of nice labels on the outside.
I appears that this trunk was shipped to Willard in 1933.
Irma led a very interesting life and it is clear that she spent time in both Europe and North America.
We had the usual problem with deciding what to shoot, as one of the museum boxes was completely full of sheet music.
It appears from her papers that she taught both music and languages in New York City after she moved to the US from Europe.
It is interesting that the composer Jack Bauer signed this one with such a nice dedication.
In addition to all the sheet music, there was a large collection of books and diaries from her travels. This Panama Canal book is incredible.
As is this sweet little booklet honoring George Washington.
I appears to be written for children what with the large illustrations and the somewhat dodgy history of his time with Native Americans.
Some of the books were in pretty rough shape, as was the interior of the trunk.
This illustrated dictionary caught our attention.
Peggy is a fluent French speaker and I asked her what her favorite word was.
She responded immediately with “pépinière” and “pépiniériste”.
I especially liked this representation of flags with annotations for the colors.
We were not able to get through all of Irma’s things and I hope to finish her up next week. This was our last set-up of the day.
The umbrella handle is so delicate.
I was able to find a link to Dr Charles Flesh Food.
This small diary contained some interesting entries.
Whenever I see an address like this I can’t help but wonder who lives there now. And what about Mrs George Covert? What was her connection to Irma?
From her diary of 8 January, 1925.
If feels so good to get back to this project and I hope to have more updates soon. Cheers, Jon
We went to see the Sox last night and it was a very interesting evening. A make-up day game was scheduled for 1 pm. It started raining in the bottom of the 5th so it was delayed for three hours. Out tickets were for 7 pm but due to the delay, the Sox allowed anyone with a ticket for the night game to watch the end of the first game which restarted at around 6.00. Kind of confusing, I know, but we went in, watched them win the early one, cleared out of the park, came back in and watched ours start at 8.00. The Sox led 1-0 until the top of the ninth when the Rays tied it up on a solo home run. Jonny Gomes hit a walk off in the bottom of the ninth to win it. It was a beautiful evening and the rain held off until the drive home.
This morning we drove Peter to New Haven to catch the train back to DC. We had a great week with him. The underground walkway to the platforms at the station is a bit outer spacey.
After his train left Cris and I drove to West Haven to walk along the sound and enjoy the beautiful day. There is a lovely park with a walking/bike path along the beach. We saw some old guys playing bocce ball and trash talking. It was very sweet and familiar. The above view made me a bit sad, as Dave’s Arcade-Carousel must have been very cool when it was still here. You can tell the original sign just said “Arcade-Carousel” but someone got some stick-on letters to memorialize Dave. He probably deserves the kind thought.
I just received word from the New York State Museum that I have permission to start shooting more suitcases. I’ll call them next week to set up a schedule. This is a huge relief to me and I would like to publicly thank them for allowing this to happen. / This photograph was taken on 22 May, 1984 on the very first day that I was allowed into Chapin House. It was a wild day. My dear friend Richard Pieper was with me and basically ran interference as I was assigned two security guards to follow me around. He would stop in the middle of doorways and turn around to ask a question thus holding them up so I could be left on my own a bit. I remember feeling that I might not have much more access than on this day, so I shot 35 mm black and white film with my Leica rangefinders (these two shots), 35mm slide film with my Nikons, and 120 color negative film with my Pentax 6×7. Almost everything great that I got out of this building came from this day. / I was so thrilled last evening to get an email from Michael Labate who was director of facilities planning for OMH at the time I was trying to access the buildings. He single-handedly got me access to Willard and I will be forever grateful. He had heard about the suitcase project and was so complimentary about my work.
These broom-like devices weighed a ton and were used by the patients as they walked the corridors. As it was explained to me, the wooden floors were in constant need of maintenance, and paraffin would be put on chamois cloths attached to the bottom of these polishers. I only ever shot this scene in black and white, but it is so very evocative to me.
Central stairway, Chapin House, Willard Asylum
There are a lot of great and interesting people working on New York State asylum issues. I have been following Lin Stuhler’s work on the Willard cemetery for a while, but only had the chance to meet her a few months ago. We keep in touch, and she just emailed me with a link to her recent blog post about the recent open house, and the bill she has been pushing in the state legislature to name the people buried at the graveyard. There is also a link to a really great video that was made by her local cable company. It is an interesting post and there is some nice video footage of some of the buildings and the cemetery. She has a real passion for this issue and should be commended for all the hard work she has done in the name of Willard patients.
Due to a remarkable set of circumstances I was invited to stay at the home of Toby and Jerry Levine while I was in San Francisco. My friend Meredith from the Pelham Cultural Council is a great friend of theirs and encouraged me to get in touch before my trip. They were super hosts and are both very involved in San Francisco neighborhood preservation and development. Toby serves on several boards and seems to be familiar with every important neighborhood issue both past and present. At one point early in my stay she asked me if I was interested in large industrial sites. Indicating that I was, she made arrangements for me to have a tour of a few buildings at Pier 70 that are slated for development.
I only had about an hour and just my little cameras with me, but Everardo, who interns with the development company gave us a grand tour of buildings 112/113 and 104.
I get so jazzed about shooting in these environments.
There is something about this time in the life of a building that intrigues me.
Since I was not able to photograph during its productive era, I can only imagine what was happening in these rooms when they were in use.
But there is usually enough evidence left behind to give an inkling to what it might have been like to work here.
And the light is always so natural and soft.
This building is huge. It was part of a ship building and dry dock facility which at one time was part of Bethlehem Steel. I believe that it was originally the Union Iron Works.
Which at one time must have employed a ton of people.
I especially like old locker rooms and bathrooms.
Nice sign over the urinals.
It is not difficult to imagine people using these sinks after a long day’s work.
I like this little office in the middle of everything.
This is a view of the second floor of 113.
How about the red fingernails painted on this stylized hand which points the way to the rest room?
This color green shows up regularly in buildings like this one. The light fixtures give a bit of a clue to when this office space was last renovated. I’d say mid 1960′s.
These last few shots are from building 104 which seems to have been mostly used for administrative offices.
This is the top floor of 104. You can just see the skylights which at some time were painted black.
The staircases are fantastic.
More lockers here, and it seems odd to me that they were in what was essentially an office building.
There was a small hospital in one wing of 104, and with all the machinery that is saw, I can imagine it was a busy place at times.
Thanks so much to the Orton Development people for granting me access to these amazing buildings. And of course to Toby and Jerry. Here are a few links to learn more about the site, its history, and future. Click here and here.
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.