Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Michael D’A

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It was clear to us when we were setting up Michael’s shot that the wrapping contained crutches.

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They were in remarkable shape for being so old.

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Michael came to Willard from Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island, but unfortunately we don’t have a date for his admittance.

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As I was editing the photographs this morning, I couldn’t remember precisely why I took the closeup shot below.

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As I looked closely the faint marks on the crutch stood out.  I wonder if he was making them in order to count days at Ward’s Island before he came to Willard.

You can see the latest here.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A #3

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It took a while, but I finally finished editing Joseph’s two trunks.  Peg and I worked on them on two different days, three weeks apart and the photos did not end up in a logical sequence.  It took me a while to organize them for the suitcases site.

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Setting up and shooting cases containing lots of clothes presented challenges.  We always strove to make the arrangements look natural, but I in particular dreaded the days where all we had to work with was clothing.

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Another shout out to Peggy Ross here.  The museum had individually conserved each item and assigned it a unique catalogue number.  In instances of larger collections like Joseph’s, the items were stored not in the cases themselves, but in archival museum boxes.  Peg was instrumental in helping with the setup by unwrapping each piece and making notes about the box from which the items came, then helping me lay them out.

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I would then make a number of wide shots, and finally move in for the details.  Once the arrangement was in place, I rarely if ever moved the objects around.  I’m not sure why, but it was important to me to maintain the integrity of the original setup.  Once I finished shooting, Peg would rewrap each item in the original conservation material and return it back into the museum storage boxes.  In retrospect it is not surprising that it took  us over five years to shoot all the cases, and that it is taking me another two years to edit everything.  I am making great progress though.

I would also mention that the clothing photographs are now among my favorites.

Thanks for following.  If you want to see all of the photos from Joseph’s cases, click this link.  Don’t forget to click on the “view all” button.  The default setting only shows the first 25 images.

 

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A’s Wife

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Joseph had two trunks in the collection and that one of them contained his wife’s clothes.

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An aspect of this project that I find most interesting is to do with questions that arise from looking at the possessions of the patients.  We know from yesterday’s post that Joseph’s trunks arrived more than a year after he was admitted.  The fact that so much of his wife’s clothing was sent to him makes me wonder if she was alive for part of that year, or if she had died before August of 1945 when he was admitted.  Did her death have something to do with his troubles?  Who sent the trunks to Willard over a year after he became a patient?

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There are, of course, answers to most of these questions.  They are in the patient records that are housed in the New York State Archives.  Due to state law and the policies of the State Office of Mental Health, almost no one (including the descendants of Willard patients) has access to these documents.

Early on in the project, I came to realize that my photographs could encourage viewers to think about the residents of Willard in a manner that went beyond their diagnoses.  In most ways, the official records are not relevant to my feelings about the 400+ people whose cases are in the collection.  As I continue to edit the images, my connection to the patients and staff at Willard continues to grow.

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Peg Ross and I came across numerous small doggies as we were shooting the suitcases.  This one is particularly cute.

I’ll have more to post tomorrow.  Cheers all.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A

This week I have begun editing Joseph A’s two trunks.  I expect it will take quite a while to get through all the photographs, as one trunk contains a ton of his clothing and the other is full of his wife’s possessions. I hope to post daily as I work through the collection.

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I don’t believe I have posted an inventory before.  This one appears to have been put together by Willard employee M. McCarry; you can see her name on the bottom right.  Joseph was admitted in August of 1945, but it seems his trunks did not arrive at Willard until April of 1946.  Some of the annotations are interesting, especially the notes that indicate that some of the clothing was with him on the ward.

I won’t be uploading the entire collection for several days, but will hope to post a few photos from it daily.  Thanks for following.

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