Jon Crispin's Notebook

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.

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.

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.

Willard Suitcases / LaVerne W and abcnews.com

Posted in Asylums, History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 15/01/2015

This photograph is from the last shoot of 2014.  LaVerne’s case held an amazing collection of postcards from Europe and some very interesting personal photographs. / Due to scheduling issues, Peg and I and won’t be able to get back to the project until later this month, but we are on the home stretch with the suitcases.  I would estimate that we have photographed at least 350 of the roughly 400 cases and it feels great.  The next phase (along with continuing to edit and upload to the site) will be to start talking to publishers and galleries.

Some very good news about coverage of the work.  In mid December I started to see an up tic in traffic on the web, and I have been receiving lots of interest and great feedback.  Just this morning abcnews.com ran a selection of the images.  It is featured quite high on their main page and here is the direct link.  Thanks so much to Kate at ABC News for her interest.

And a very interesting site in Brazil just ran a long article on the project.  The InstitutoMoreiraSalles (IMS) runs an online magazine called ZUM and they did a great job putting the piece together.  Here is the link.  If any of you read Portuguese, let me know how it sounds.

Willard Suitcases / Josephine S

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 24/12/2014

A few days ago I started getting a great deal of email from people who had seen the project somewhere online.  I am not really sure of the source, but am always pleased to hear from folks.  I think I tracked down the article, but it did have some really glaring errors, and attributed some things to me that I never would have said.  I hesitate to post a link, as it is one of those conglomeration sites with some tacky ads and links.

But the good part is that I am hearing from some wonderful people who are sharing their stories with me.  I really appreciate it, and am grateful that the project is reaching new viewers.

Hallway / Suitcases

Posted in Asylums, History, motels, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 07/12/2014

I am in a motel in Erie, PA on my way to Wittenberg University where I will be spending the next few days talking to faculty and students about the suitcase project.  I am really excited about this and owe a debt of thanks to my friend Peter Wray for reconnecting me to Witt.

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.

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