Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase / Delmar H. / Willard Tour

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 13/05/2014

It has been a while since I have posted any suitcases.  It is never far from my mind, but there is a lot going on in other areas of my life.  There seems to be an uptick in interest for some reason.  What usually happens is that a blog or website picks it up and it starts spreading anew.  Greetings to new viewers. /  I have always loved cases with exotic travel labels, and Delmar’s had a few.

I wonder when he went to South America.

I will be at Willard this Saturday for the annual tour.  I would encourage any of you who live nearby to come.  There is a$10.00 admission, and it is a rare chance to get into some of the buildings and wander around the cemetery.  There are two tours; 9.00 AM and 1.00 PM.  I will be at the one in the afternoon .  Here is a link with information.  Hope to see you there.

Tiny Daffodils

Posted in Flowers, Nature, Newspapers, Willard Suitcases, Writers by joncrispin on 27/04/2014

Good morning everyone.  The New York Times doesn’t come until after 9.00 on Sundays so I wander around waiting for it to show up.  These daffs are just outside the back door so after my third time checking for the paper, I realized I should take a picture and post it here. /  I am at the beginning of a week where I plan to spend maximum time in my studio cleaning, organizing, and generally getting rid of stuff I haven’t used in years.  I started yesterday and it feels great.  Back to shooting suitcases tomorrow and am very excited to be going with Ilan Stavans, as he has an interest in a particular case.  Wishing you all a great week, and early delivery of your Sunday paper.

Willard Suitcases / John R

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 22/04/2014

Near the end of a day’s shooting yesterday I asked Peg how many suitcases she thought we had photographed.  She went to her computer and checked the database.  We were up to 248 (out of 420) with two left to do before we shut down for the day.   So we are well past the halfway point, and I was really cheered that we have made it so far.  I shot the first case in March of 2011 and haven’t really been paying attention to the numbers, so it was a very pleasant surprise to see our progress.

John’s briefcase is particularly interesting, with a varied collection of items.  All of the onionskin papers in the background are English language word and sentence exercises.  It is possible he worked at General Electric for a time as he saved the pension and insurance plan brochures.  And he was clearly a fan of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Dwight Eisenhower, Mickey Rooney as well as cheesecake shots of women.  The reporter’s notebook is especially interesting as it is full of a stream of conscious like composition in  his beautiful handwriting.

Thanks for all the support and interest in the project.  Cheers,  Jon

Willard Suitcases / Anna H / Talk in Albany

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 03/04/2014

After a bit of a break, we were back to shooting more of the suitcases yesterday.  It was a productive day, and after the intensity of the Kickstarter appeal, it was nice to be back to doing what is the most important part of the project.

Anna’s case was in nice condition and the wicker pattern was lovely.

For those of you in the Albany area, I would love to see you at a presentation I will be giving at The University at Albany next Thursday the 10th.  I will be talking about the suitcases and some of my other work to Katherine Van Acker’s class on documentary studies.  Here are the details:  Uptown Campus, Science Library Room SL G02, 5.45 pm.  On our way back from Rotterdam yesterday, Peg drove me around the campus so I could get my bearings, and the first thing I noticed is that parking could be very difficult.  There is a very small visitors lot (link to campus map), so if you plan on attending I would encourage you to get there early.

Again

Posted in Jon Crispin, Transportation, Travel, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 06/03/2014

In the late afternoon of 28 October, 2011 I picked up Peter at Union and he and I were heading home for the weekend.  Cristine was working in the Middle East, and the weather forecast was calling for a major storm.  I was partway through the first suitcases Kickstarter campaign, and feeling unsure as to how it would all work out.  We stopped at the first rest area on the MASS PIKE to get gas (and I think a packet of Hostess Cup Cakes).  I looked at my phone and something like 80 emails that had just come in.  I really thought there was a problem with my account and that the server was just resending old mail that I had already viewed.  When I looked closely I realized that all the email had come from Kickstarter.  They had just featured me as a “project we love”, and I immediately met my goal.   That early winter storm rolled in big time and we were without electricity for the next 2 days. Wild./  Yesterday, I was shooting the suitcases in Rotterdam and was aware that the current Kickstarter appeal was ending in the evening.  As I was driving east on the pike towards home, I stopped for gas at that same rest area, looked at my phone and saw this ($20,879 pledged with 341 backers, funding successful).  It seemed just right that I discovered that both projects had gone over the top at the same location.

Willard Suitcases Projec

This is one of yesterday’s cases.  It belonged to Joseph K.

Thank you all for your support and interest in the project.  And a huge thanks to the folks at Kickstarter for running a great organization, and providing a venue that enables independent projects like this one to be successful.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Posted in Architecture, Art, Asylums, Cities, People, Transportation, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 03/03/2014

It has seemed that for the past three weeks, my life has been consumed by the Kickstarter appeal.  It has been a great, if not intense, experience.  What I like most is that I am meeting such interesting people who are drawn to the project.  Paul Mullins is a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and he just posted a great piece on his wordpress site.  Here is the link.  I like how serious academics have taken to thinking and writing about the suitcases.

Last Wednesday I drove to Exeter, NH to photograph the poet Willie Perdomo for Poets & Writers Magazine.  He is an amazing guy, and we had a tremendous dialogue about art, creativity, and life in general.  The story will run in the May/June issue.  I’ll post a link when it is online.  He generously gave me a copy of his new book and I had fun reading it on the train back from New York on Saturday evening.

I was in the city for a memorial service for the husband of a good friend who I met through the suitcases project.  I am reminded again and again how way beyond photography the cases are for me.  The service was very moving, and as these events often do, it reinforced the idea that friendship, love and a simple appreciation of being alive and healthy are what it is all about.  So thanks to all of you who are reaching out.  The connections mean so much to me.

Willard Suitcases / Ethel S

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 02/03/2014

Ethel  S came to Willard with some beautiful quilts, which I have reason to believe she had made herself.

She also had some interesting photographs, and her Bible was a very nice edition.

And for some reason she arrived with a complete set of cutlery.

I especially liked this spoon, which was most likely hers as a child.

I often find myself wondering what impact her faith had in how she coped with life at the asylum.

As you can see, Ethel was admitted on 3 July, 1930.

Three days to go on the Kickstarter appeal.  Thank you all for your support.  I have every confidence we will make it.  I especially want to thank those of you who have increased your pledges.  I am a bit overwhelmed by all this.  You all must know that this is not so much about me and my life as a photographer, but about the  people who lived at Willard, those who took care of them, and all of you who are a part of the project.  Have a great week everybody.

Willard Cemetery / Thanks

Posted in History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 28/02/2014

Last February, Craig Williams and I were at Willard shooting the attic where the suitcases were “rediscovered. (Here’s a link to an earlier post)  There aren’t many of these upright metal markers left.

After we were done, we walked across the road to the cemetery.  It is always very moving to see the field where many of the Willard patients are buried in numbered graves.  And interesting to note that starting in the late 1930s, and ending just before he died 1968, a patient named Lawrence M  was the primary gravedigger.  Amazing.

I have posted before about the cemetery and the people who are working diligently to honor the dead by attaching names to the numbers.  Click here and here to read those previous posts.

Thanks for all the tremendous response to my “appeal” post the other night. We are at $14,000 on the Kickstarter appeal, and I am feeling very positive.

Appeal

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 26/02/2014

The Kickstarter campaign ends next Wednesday.  I want to thank all of you who have supported the project so far.

It is now time for me to put out a direct appeal to those of you who have thought about backing the project but have been waiting to decide if it was something you would care to do.  I could really use your help.

The way Kickstarter works is that I set a goal, and if that goal is not reached, none of the funds will come through.  I felt strongly that I did not want to undervalue the project, and that if I achieved my goal, I would be able to finish shooting all the cases.  The money raised helps me cover my costs of travel, pays me for my time, and enables me to pay Peggy Ross for her invaluable help.  The funds also allow me to make and distribute prints to show to potential venues for exhibits, and begin to reach out to organizations that might want me to talk about the suitcases to a wider audience.  I can’t begin to tell you how weird it feels to me to directly ask for financial support, but I am convinced that this is the most important project I have worked on in my life as a photographer, and I think Kickstarter is a great venue for people to become involved in the creation of something so compelling.  So, here’s the link. And thanks so much.

William H was admitted to Willard on 28 June, 1926.

Artists / Marc Castelli

Posted in Art, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 20/02/2014

Whenever I photograph artists, I always like to get a few shots of the mixture of paints on their palettes.

Today as part of the Tilghman Waterman’s Museum work, Peter Carroll and I went to Chestertown, MD and videotaped and photographed the artist Marc Castelli.  His main focus is working with, and learning about the lives of the watermen.  He spends a few days a week out on the bay with them,  then goes back to his studio and produces beautiful paintings of life on the water.

Tomorrow, I go back to shooting Tilghman artifacts, which is always fascinating.

My Kickstarter suitcases appeal had a good day today with 2 different $500 backers as well as some great other supporters .  We are down to 12 days to go and I am really working hard to spread the word.  Thanks to all of you followers of this blog who have helped out so far.

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