Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase #11

Posted in Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 13/01/2012

This suitcase belonged to Floyd H.  It is one of the many empty cases that are in the collection.

When I first started on this project, my plan was to shoot only cases that had something in them.

As the work has developed though, I am finding that there is a segment of my backers that are as interested in the cases themselves as the contents.

So I will make an attempt to include as many of these suitcases as I can, since even when empty they tell a lot about the people who owned them.

Floyd’s case did have this tag in it, and I believe it is the original from when he was admitted.  I am still struggling with the name issue, and regretfully have made the decision to obscure his surname via photoshop.  Aside from the legal issues, this causes a huge problem for me, as I don’t believe in manipulating the content of photographs.  This opens a major can of worms, and I am guessing that I will get response from both sides of the issue, but as of now, I find it necessary.  I will say though that as a rule, I never mess around with the content of these images, and only will do so when it comes down to the identification of the residents.

24 Responses

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  1. Kate said, on 13/01/2012 at 12:42 pm

    I’m one of your kickstarter backers, and I agree with your decision to obscure his name. I would have no issue with your “fuzzing” it so the person viewing the photo can see that there was one, but I don’t think that the names should be revealed. We are dealing with people’s privacy, which I think should in this case take precedence over the sanctity of the photo.

    • joncrispin said, on 13/01/2012 at 12:45 pm

      Kate, thanks for your input. I appreciate your opinion. Jon

    • Norman Rabek said, on 14/01/2012 at 9:18 pm

      I agree that the names should be altered enough that they cannot be identified. It serves no purpose to know their full name, only that they existed as a person, and lived in this place, and left behind these personal mementos. You honor their lives by obscuring their names.

  2. Will R. said, on 13/01/2012 at 12:50 pm

    While I understand not manipulating images. I try very hard not to do so myself. However, obscuring PII (Personally identifiable Information) is almost a must in this day and litigious age. People sue for silly things. If a relative of one of these patients or even a still living patient becomes “embarrassed” by a disclosure of their name. It will be nothing but grief for you.

    I have had to obscure names when shooting photos in Iraq and Afghanistan for operational security. The places I shoot here (part of Urban Exploration) in the states get the same treatment. You never know who is reading what you post!

    Keep up the great work!

    Will R.
    (from an undisclosed location)

  3. Monique Colver said, on 13/01/2012 at 12:51 pm

    I agree with Kate.

  4. Peach Farm Studio said, on 13/01/2012 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Jon. Beautiful work! Legal issues are a sticky wicket! As for alleviating any Photoshop guilt feelings — how about obscuring the tags some other way? Rather than using Photoshop, instead take a photo of the tags with the surname [fully or partially] hidden in a pocket or a shadow of the suitcase, or in the case of a suitcase that has contents, obscure the surname in a fold of clothing or under an object. Just our two bits. Cheers and wishing you much success, as usual!

  5. JohnL said, on 13/01/2012 at 1:10 pm

    EH on the tag stands for Elliot Hall that was the Medical/Surgical Building. I see your point on the last name. But I disagree. I might have known the Person which would give me a chance in enrich his memory. It has been said that OMH has tried to track down any living relatives. I don’t believe so. Maybe it’s because I worked for the OMH system to long! Now that the name is taken from the suitcase it’s like stealing his identity in to obscurity! I don’t blame you Jon but rather society. I think HIPPA laws go too far sometime. If the graves in the Willard cemetery had proper head stones would it read here lies Floyd L H! Keep up the good work.

  6. Kilian Metcalf said, on 13/01/2012 at 3:07 pm

    I think obscuring the last name is simply courtesy, as well as respectful of privacy. @ JohnL (I notice you don’t give *your* last name and would probably be upset if someone else revealed it) a gravestone by its nature is public. A personal possession is not. I love this project and hope it will be published in some form – book, video, documentary, whatever.

  7. ekroczek said, on 13/01/2012 at 3:11 pm

    Also agree with Kate: privacy in a situation such as this is paramount. I’m really enjoying your Willard suitcase series and look forward to each one. It’s quite a fascinating project.

  8. Ellen said, on 13/01/2012 at 3:38 pm

    The suitcase itself is beautiful – so textured, and such beautiful earth tones. I love that the stripes are askew when it’s closed. When my parents were married (1949) they received as a wedding present a set of luggage that looked a lot like this suitcase. So elegant – a way of saying to a newly married couple that they were on their way to a life together. I wonder what Floyd L. H— was thinking as he packed his suitcase for his journey to Willard; so different from what my parents were feeling as they filled their new luggage for their honeymoon trip to Maine. (But who knows? Perhaps he was happy in a way, hoping that he would find help and respite there.) Such histories; such lives lived.

  9. daisyj said, on 13/01/2012 at 3:51 pm

    My feeling is that it’s the right decision to obscure the names for the photos you post on the internet– because of the degree they can be reproduced and accessed– but leave them in the physical prints of the photos to maintain the integrity of the image. Of course, that’s not legal advice, and you should do whatever you think is right.

  10. Theanne said, on 13/01/2012 at 5:31 pm

    I understand!

  11. Della Badart said, on 13/01/2012 at 6:29 pm

    The case is beautiful. I don’t believe we need to know Floyd’s last name to enjoy this piece. Keep up the good work. Don’t question yourself; do what you know is right.


    • joncrispin said, on 13/01/2012 at 7:06 pm

      Della, thanks for your support. I really enjoy the back and forth on this issue. Jon

  12. Mike said, on 13/01/2012 at 8:12 pm

    I’m also a supporter and think that most of the Willard patients are probably expired and if a last name is used I doubt that it causes harm. Much like using John and Jane Doe in some circumstances using a persons name if their hometown is not used or seen then there is not much great harm to the families. Back in the day persons who were admitted to hospitals were known because many of their names ended up in the newspapers. I doubt that Willard did that, but it was done. Keep up the good work, I’m looking forward to our “rewards.”

  13. Stephen Young said, on 13/01/2012 at 8:20 pm

    “Maude”, the leather maker, from an earlier blog post, has her full name on the suitcase tag. I am neither in favor or against full name being revealed. Either way, they all make me a bit sad.

  14. soyfig said, on 14/01/2012 at 6:30 am

    I think you’re right to obscure the name. There may be living relatives who would mind.

  15. theoclarke said, on 14/01/2012 at 10:57 am

    In my opinion, it is entirely appropriate to obscure personal names on published images of this nature. However much we may decry the stigma attached to mental illness, it exists. Descendants or relatives of the suitcase owners may be shocked or shamed by such a revelation. As a historian, however, I feel strongly that there is an important opportunity here for a researcher to explore the family and social history of these ‘lost’ people.

    • L.S. Stuhler said, on 20/01/2012 at 6:23 pm

      I have often thought if we changed the term “mental illness” into “life event” we could remove the centuries old stigma of being a defective human being not worthy of being remembered into a human being who has experienced trauma, loss, stress, and depression. It’s 2012, time to move forward and realize that if you or a family member lives with a “mental illness,” you need not be ashamed.

  16. Michelle Chase said, on 15/01/2012 at 12:05 pm

    I like that you obscure the name, it leaves the person with a certain amount of dignity at a not so great time in their life.

  17. L.S. Stuhler said, on 20/01/2012 at 1:24 pm

    I agree Jon. Until the law is changed there is no point in you being arrested and paying a $10,000 fine for each person who has been revealed. This is why I put my census information on the internet for free and did not include it in the book. Maybe someday, these people will be allowed to be remembered with dignity. Thanks! -Lin

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