Several months ago I was contacted by the Brazilian publisher Compania Das Letras about the suitcases project being included in a book by Dorrit Harazim. They have been really great to deal with, but I wasn’t entirely clear about the nature of the project. When I got back from Nepal, a copy was waiting for me in my post office box. It seems to be a collection of essays about photographs (it is in Portuguese so I am not sure), and I was amazed to see the other photographers that were included. Several Magnum photographers are involved along with Gordon Parks and Vivian Maier and some other illustrious names. I am thrilled an honored to be a part of it. “O instante certo” translated roughly to “the right moment”. It is available through Amazon, so if you read Portuguese it might be nice to get a copy.
The article on the suitcases translates to “travel without return”. I would be happy if the book was translated into English at some point, but in the meantime, I’ll ask for a pdf and plug it into google translate.
The first few days I was in Nepal I had time in the mornings to edit some suitcase photographs. Upload speeds were really slow, so I didn’t get to add them to the site until today. You might want to check willardsuitcases.com to see some new ones. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Cases” page to see the latest additions.
Ida’s suitcase was mostly empty except for a comb, some wrapping paper, and a label. I really like this photograph.
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.
These shots are all from around Durbar Square.
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.
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.
These next two are Krishna.
He is almost always depicted with a cow and a flute.
And often a milkmaid.
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.
The issue of public defecation is something that the current government has begun to work on (for obvious reasons).
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.
Thanks for following. We are a bit sketchy on Hindu lore, so please pardon me if I have gotten anything wrong about the gods.
I am in a phase of editing the suitcases where I have shifted from working on mostly full ones to ones that are largely empty save for labels. This is Elaine G’s leather grip. Nice hats, a lovely porcelain figurine and a Bible. Check out the suitcases site to see the latest uploads.
James arrived at Willard on 15 February 1961. I like how the staff identified his case as “clothlike”. I think it was actually real cloth.
And Carrie was admitted on 21 March 1930.
I am really facinated by the labels as they reveal quite a bit about the folks who owned the cases.
I was in DC earlier this week and had an interesting meeting with one of the curators at the National Portrait Gallery. This is the atrium that they share with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is an amazing building with a fantastic collection.
Harry M’s case wasn’t technically a suitcase, but it contained some interesting things.
I’m not sure what the wooden object on the left is, but the Latimer White Petroleum Jelly label is quite nice. And the Prell shampoo bottle is classic. The label had fallen off, but it has the “Rinse, Lather, Repeat” admonition that got consumers to use twice as much as they probably needed.
I have been editing and uploading more of the suitcases, and you can see the latest here. Just click on “The Cases” at the top of the page. Thanks for following.
L. W.’s case was largely empty save for this purple piece of rope and a half-smoked cigar. It stikes me as a pretty good metaphor for a life interrupted. You can check out the other photographs on the suitcases site. Thanks for following, and I wish you all a lovely weekend.
I mentioned earlier this week that I was hoping to get Charles F’s photographs uploaded by the end of the week, and here is a sample. To see the rest of the collection, please go to the Willard Suitcases site.
From the little I know about Charles, he came to Willard somewhat later in his life. I have no way of knowing if the portrait in the above photograph is he, or someone near to him, but whenever I think about his life, this image comes to mind.
The tassels on his tallit are especially evocative to me.
I believe that this is the publisher of some of his books. I did a search for it but came up empty. Any help would be welcome.
His starched collars were still in quite good condition.
I have no way of knowing if he was in the military, but I would guess that this canteen was army surplus.
Here is a close up of his naturalization papers, which date to October of 1896.
Many of the suitcases in the collection contain scraps of paper with hand-written notes on them. I find that these can be especially interesting.
One of Charles’ cases had this selection tools (and a razor).
Please check out the rest of my photographs of Charles’ possessions on the suitcases site, and thanks for following.
Very shortly after the first Willard Suitcases kickstarter went up I received an email from Jessica Helfand expressing her interest in the project. She soon invited me down to New Haven to speak to her Yale freshman seminar class, “Studies in Visual Biography”. Here is a post I did just after that first visit. I have subsequently been to her class on several other occasions and it is always very stimulating and fun.
As well as teaching at Yale, Jessica and her late husband Bill Drenttel created Design Observer, which is a fantastic website devoted to creativity and design. That description doesn’t do it justice though, as it is so much more than that. It is really worth checking out on a regular basis. In addition to the site, Design Observer recently started publishing a quarterly magazine. The second issue is just out, and they included a huge spread on the suitcases. I am just so honored to be a part of the issue, and it looks great. Here is a link to purchase it, and I would really recommend all of you interested in the project to do so. It includes many suitcase photographs that haven’t been published before. Special thanks go to Eugenia Bell, who did a great job selecting the images, and making sure it all came together. She was a joy to work with.
As we were saying goodbye after that first class at Yale, Jessica reached out, hugged me and said “We’re friends now!” It was a most touching gesture and I have rarely felt so quickly welcomed into someone’s life. She has been a massive supporter of the project who has helped me in so many ways, and I am very fortunate to be her friend.
I have mentioned my Krieghoff connection before. Like Cornelius, Gordon was also a painter, and he lived and worked in Detroit, which is where my mom grew up. If I remember correctly, they were contemporaries, although Gordon was somewhat older. In addition to works like the one above, he was also a commericial artist.
While my family doesn’t have any Cornelius paintings, we do have quite a few of Gordon’s. There is not much of a market for his work, and there isn’t much information online about his life. It is possible that my brother or sister know more than I, and they might add something in the comments. I don’t ever remember meeting him as a child.
When my parents died, we siblings each got several of the paintings. The frames were in pretty good shape but the mats were yellowed and probably not acid-free. This is the second one that I have had reframed, and like the first, there was something sketched out on the reverse side of the painting.
This is clearly the beginning of what was probably an advertisement of some sort. I know he did illustrative work for some of the larger Detroit companies, including General Motors. Like many of us, I wish I had more concrete facts about my extended family history.
When Judy Berde and I were making arrangements for my talk on Roosevelt Island, I got an email from her asking if I had a dog. The question came out of nowhere, but I told her about Olive. When I finished my talk she presented me with a box with this amazing gift inside. Olive now has a new bowl, and she loves it! (Well, it has food in it and she is a Labrador; what’s not to like?) I think these bowls are for sale through the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, as well as mugs with the same text. Any of you who live in the metro New York area should think about joining the organization; Judy does a great job and the island has a really interesting history.
Olive is also now rocking a new Red Sox collar, which is a gift from my sister Karen. Thanks Sis.