Gordon K was admitted to Willard in September of 1962. The inner lining of his small grip was different than most we have seen. More like flannel than anything else.
This morning Cris was reading the news on her computer and forwarded this story to me. I couldn’t help but think about the Willard cemetery, and the work that Colleen Spellecy is doing at the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project and that Lin Stuhler is doing at her Inmates of Willard site. After watching the piece, I was curious about how the group was able to get names from the state.
At times I struggle a bit with most of the long-term projects on which I spend a great deal of time and energy. I realize that it is a normal part of the process, and having questions about what I am trying to do actually gives me a chance to think and, I hope, eventually get some answers.
During the first phase of this work, most of the cases that I was shooting were quite full of items that folks brought with them to Willard. Craig Williams rightly thought that since my time was limited, I should concentrate on the most “interesting” cases. Once I became committed to a complete documentation of all of the roughly 430 suitcases, I realized that most of the ones that I hadn’t shot were empty. But empty is a relative term here. In addition to the paper tags that identify the owner of each case, there is a beauty in the suitcase itself, and in the fabric lining, and in the straps designed to hold people’s clothing secure during transit. Occasionally there will be some other random object; a hair pin, a button, a luggage tag, a newspaper clipping.
On Monday I was beginning to think that my interest in these empty cases was somewhat misplaced. The project had gotten so much attention early on, and I understand that it was due primarily to what the cases contain, and what those contents say about the individuals that own them. While shooting, I was feeling that fewer people would be interested in the empty ones, and I was bothered by that. I thought about it a lot during my drive home from Rotterdam, and I began to remember what I always talk about when speaking about art and creativity. Ultimately, the only reason to create art is to please the person who is creating it. If others are affected by it, that is a huge bonus. All I know right now is that I look at the photographs I took of this case and I see a life. I see that her name was Elizabeth and that she came to Willard on 30 November, 1951. I see that she had a beautiful leather suitcase, and that someone in her family had the name Mary. And I am really moved by this and hope to be able to move others when they look at these pictures.
So I am really jazzed about continuing. The video for the next Kickstarter appeal is done and I have to decide when to get it up and running. Right now I am thinking that early to mid January is the time, and I will certainly post about it here. In the meantime, thank you all for following the project. I really appreciate the comments and emails that come my way.
I really liked this case when I shot it on Wednesday. It belonged to Mabel Y. The pattern on it is actual weave as opposed to a fake print pattern made to look like weave. It, like many of the suitcases, has no means to support the top when opened, so Peg and I are constantly coming up with some way to hold it upright for the photograph.
Here is one of our usual tricks. My parents gave me this thermos for my birthday at least 30 years ago. I always make a pot of milky tea for the drive over to Rotterdam, and since the storage facility is very chilly in the Winter months it is great to have something warm during the day. The laser beam sticker comes from my great friend Peter Carroll who seems to pick up things like this on occasion. / You can see Peg in the background working on her computer. She created an amazing database into which we can enter all the pertinent information about each case, its contents, and the owner. She is doing her best keeping me and the project organized, and I am so grateful for her help and support.
Sometimes I get a bit frustrated when I don’t post here as soon as I have some interesting (to me) photographs. / We were up in Maine for Thanksgiving at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. They live near to Higgins Beach in Scarborough, ME and on Thursday the ocean was really kickin’. I went for three separate walks to the beach the next day and each one was interesting in its own way. The surf was up (especially by East Coast standards) and at one point there were at least 40 surfers out.
On the morning walk I noticed that tons of sea creatures were washed way up on the beach, including this guy. Very alive and, I hope, happy to be put back into the ocean. Would have made a nice little lunch though.
On our way home on Saturday, I finally stopped to take a shot of this structure on Route 1 in Scarborough. I liked the light, and it is nice to see how helpful the owners are in identifying just what this thing is.
Further (farther?) down Route 1 is Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery and since Peter was with us it seemed a nice time to stop in for a bite. As usual, amazing fried clams.
Next stop was in Boston for our annual walk around the outside of Fenway Park. So sweet to have the 2013 World Series banner hanging.
And I have always liked this statue, especially Dom DiMaggio’s specs. / We ended the Boston leg of the trip with a stop at the Blue Ribbon. For Peter, this day was a triple play; clams, Fenway, and Blue Ribbon. He was a very happy boy.
And finally, there is this. Image-wise it is kind of an orphan here, but I love the floating cone in the middle. I spotted this on a walk with Pete yesterday afternoon. / I take him to the train in New Haven tomorrow, and as usual, it will be difficult to say goodbye. Cris and I have had so much fun being with him for the past few weeks.