Jon Crispin's Notebook



  Whenever I am here in Nepal I always keep an eye out for bricks, as seeing them makes me think of my good friend Richard Pieper.  Most buildings are adorned with them, and the walls surrounding the Royal Palace are all brick.  On our daily walk to the World Education office we pass by a large section of the Palace wall which is undergoing a post earthquake renovation.  I saw this pile and noticed the markings and didn’t think much of it at the time, but the next day I stopped and took this picture.  It is not at all uncommon to see the swastika used as a symbol in various ways around Nepal.  It got me thinking about how we in the West are so conditioned to see the obvious negative aspects of it.  I went to the wiki page and learned a lot of interesting facts about its history and usage.  I would encourage anyone interested to check it out.  What got to me especially was that under the section of the wiki that showed the varieties of swastikas, the Hakenkreuz (second row, bottom left) gave me a visceral reaction.

We head back to the US on Sunday.  I have managed to pick up a bothersome cold and have been a bit less active than I would like, but Cris’ work ends today and we will have some time to goof around tomorrow and Sunday morning.  Thanks for following.

Walking and Bricks

Posted in Cities, Construction, Dogs, Landscape, Rivers, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized, Water by joncrispin on 15/06/2016

Nepal 14 June 2016

I have been spending my afternoons walking around Kathmandu.  Whenever I see bricks (and there are a lot of them here) I think of my friend Richard Pieper.  He loves bricks.  It is nice to be a photographer as it is impossible to ever be bored.  I see bricks, I think of Pieper, I see motor scooters and I am interested because I have a Vespa, I see people giving water to a stray, injured dog and I am touched, I see rivers and I think of Peter Carroll’s brother Alan who worked on water quality here a long time ago, and I see young children reading and I think of all the work Cris does in helping kids become literate.  I see these things, but I don’t always photograph them.  I am a bit self conscious about poking a camera into the lives of people who are just going about their days.  It always takes me a while to be comfortable, and the only way I can do so is to engage with the people I see.  It is a bit more difficult in a place where many speak only a bit of English, and I speak no Nepali.  But after today, I am beginning to see things that I want to photograph, and I know I will eventually wrap my head about how to go about it.  So today I am showing you bricks.

Nepal 14 June 2016

And another representation of Krishna.

Nepal 14 June 2016

Here is the Bishnumati River.  I almost didn’t take this picture,  and I almost didn’t post it here because it felt exploitative in a way.  Coming to a place like Kathmandu and pointing out what we Westerners think of as being messed up largely misses the point.  Water quality is a huge issue here.  This river is everything from a sewer to a rubbish heap and then some.  It is easy for me to say it should be cleaned up.  And it is easy for governments and NGOs to put money into doing just that.  But it is not easy, and there are a lot of people putting a ton of effort into sorting this problem out.  I just wonder what it will take.  Somewhere at its source this river came out of the mountains clean and pure.  Along the way it became this. I’m not really sure how to end here, but it is important for me to be a little optimistic, which I guess I still am.  Maybe someday.

Durbar Square / Hindu Gods

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

Cris starts work tomorrow, so today was a day to walk around a bit.  The earthquake damage is very obvious with piles of brick everywhere and scaffolding around many buildings.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

These shots are all from around Durbar Square.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

Cris would gasp just about every time we turned a corner in this part of Kathmandu.  She came here first in 1979 as a Peace Corps volunteer, has subsequently come back to work in Nepal on a regular basis, and is really familiar with the city. It is really shocking to see the devastation.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

As we were walking back to the hotel I started noticing pictures of Hindu gods that were about 3 feet off the ground and which were spread out about every five yards along a huge brick wall.  They are evocative in the odd way that things that attract my attention are.  I began taking pictures of them when I saw this next guy, who looked much more contemporary than the rest.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

These next two are Krishna.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

He is almost always depicted with a cow and a flute.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

And often a milkmaid.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

This sign was higher up on the wall and Cris was looking at it and smiling as I walked past her.  It is amazing to come to a place like Nepal with someone who speaks and reads the language.  It basically says, don’t piss or shit on the wall.  Which is why the images of the gods are placed just about the height at which a man’s stream would fall.  It seems a pretty effective deterrent.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

The issue of public defecation is something that the current government has begun to work on (for obvious reasons).

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

We like Ganesh as he is the remover of obstacles and the patron of the arts and sciences. For some reason, we have always associated him with travel, which is something we do quite often.  Finally, here is Hanuman, the monkey god.

Travel to Nepal and Day 1

Thanks for following. We are a bit sketchy on Hindu lore, so please pardon me if I have gotten anything wrong about the gods.

Ellis Island

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Construction, History by joncrispin on 08/03/2012

I had the rarest of opportunities yesterday.  Pieper is giving a presentation on Ellis Island about the construction of the original buildings and he had me come out with him to take photographs to illustrate his talk.  It was an incredible day, and I was mostly in a state of near rapture.  I have always wanted to photograph the unrestored buildings on the island and am so grateful to Pieper and  Darcy Hartman of Save Ellis Island for the chance.  This photograph was taken in what I believe is called the Doctor’s (or Surgeon’s) residence.  I’ll post more in the days to come.  Here is some information on the talk: “The Actual Bricks and Mortar Story; Building Ellis Island’s Hospitals”.  10.30 to 12.30 on 15 April, 2012.  It is open to the public but limited to 50 participants.  For information, email    For anyone interested in these buildings this is a unique chance to don a hardhat and take a tour of the usually off limits parts of the island.

Curtain Theatre Lighting Grid

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Construction, People, Work by joncrispin on 23/08/2011

The Curtain Theatre renovation is moving along.  Last week they put up the new lighting grid and it is very interesting.  These are guys that have been doing all the work.

Curtain theatre

Posted in Architecture, Construction, Work by joncrispin on 27/07/2011

UMASS is renovating the Curtain Theatre in the Fine Arts Building and I have been documenting the progress.  I enjoy photographing in dark spaces using long exposures.  Here I have stitched two frames together.

Clingstone story in Old House Journal

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Construction, History, Landscape, Published work, Water by joncrispin on 07/03/2011

The Old House Journal with the Clingstone story is on the newsstands.  It is the May 2011 issue.  Click here to see the online version.  Please click on the photos to see them in a pop-out window.  And keep in mind that the volunteer weekend is coming up .  It is a blast.

The Church of the Holy Cross

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Buildings, Construction, History, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 12/02/2011


The Church of the Holy Cross in Troy, NY was built in two stages in the 1840s.  The nave was built in 1844 from a design by Alexander Jackson Davis.  It is a very beautiful building which sadly is no longer a church.  When the congregation dropped below twenty, the writing was on the proverbial wall.  It was decommissioned (if that is the correct word) about a year ago.  RPI is in the process of purchasing the  building, which I suppose is good.  I have such mixed feelings about buildings being used for something other than their original purpose.  I am sure RPI will treat it with respect, and I hear that there are covenants in the sale agreement to protect the integrity of the building (it is on the National Register of Historic Places).  /  After Craig Williams and the Museum crew left, Fred Cawley was kind enough to give me a bit of a tour.  Craig had encouraged me to go up the bell tower, and after shooting the nave and chancel, Fred and I went through a very narrow door and made the climb.



Lots of dead pigeons on the way up, and there seemed to be lots of live ones up by the bells.



And those ones flew around like crazy when I pulled on the yellow ropes.  I really had no idea that they were connected anymore, and it was quite a surprise to hear the sound of bells above me. / I am not sure what the purpose of this box is, but it might be part of the clock mechanism.  Quite a magical morning.


Posted in Buildings, Construction by joncrispin on 23/04/2010

I had a good room at the Millenium for my Binghamton University shoot.  I was hoping to get on to the WTC site Friday morning for the New York State Museum, but it didn’t work out for now.  This is a huge project and they seem to be working through the night.  After I took this picture, Peter, Matt and I had a great meal at Les Halles.


Posted in Construction by joncrispin on 18/03/2010

Whenever I see bricks, I think of Pieper.  There is  massive brick production is Bangladesh and he would love it here.  With a building boom going on, huge stacks of new bricks are everywhere.  The Bangla word on this one is crane, like the bird.

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