Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Herman G

Willard Asylum Suitcases
Herman G
©2015 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Herman G was featured in the 2004 New York State Museum exhibit on the suitcases.  His story is interesting in that he was a patient at the “Craig Colony for Epileptics” before he came to Willard.  I had posted about him around the time we photographed his box of photo gear and correspondence in 2015.

Willard Asylum Suitcases
Herman G
©2015 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I have just uploaded the complete edit.  You can see the collection here.

I’ll start work on Rodrigo L. tomorrow.  His story is amazing.  Thanks for following.

 

Willard Suitcases / Dorrit Harazim Book

O instante certo

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.

viagens sem volta

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.

Design Observer / Jessica Helfand

 

design observer

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.

Herman

Posted in Friends, photography, Uncategorized, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 10/02/2016

Herman

Working my way home today, but I got to see my good friend Herman this morning on Elizabeth Street.  I think he just got this new hat.

Big thanks to Judy Berde at the Roosevelt Island Historical Society for inviting me to speak about the suitcases.  We had a great crowd with lots of interesting questions.  And a note to any of you who are involved in organizations that might like to sponsor a talk.  I am starting to travel quite a bit and really look forward to presenting the project.  Next Wednesday the 17th, I be talking about some of my other work to the Schenectady Photographic Society.  If you live in the Albany area, stop by.

Willard Suitcases/Margaret D./NYC Talk

Willard Suitcases ©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret D. came to Willard with almost all of her household, including her car.  I posted here and here about her before. / The cutlery in the La Lure box is very cool.

On Tuesday the 9th of February I will be giving a presentation about the suitcases sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.  It will take place at the New York Public Library branch, 524 Main Street on the island.  The start time is 6.30 pm and I would encourage anyone coming to get there a bit early, as the branch closes at 7.45 and we will need to start on time.

 There is very little on-street parking, I would encourage everyone to come by public transport.  (Hey, it’s New York City!)  Here is a link for travel directions.  If you are coming by tram, the station is at Second Avenue and 60th Street.  You will need to pay with a Metrocard ($2.75).  When you arrive on the island, take red bus (free) to the second stop and walk forward about 50 yards to the library.  If coming by subway, take the F train from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.  Then the red bus to the first stop and walk 50 yards to the library.  If you follow the project online or have been in touch directly, please come up and introduce yourself.  I will be in the building by 5.00, I hope, and will have time to chat once everything is set up.  Hope to see you there.

 I noticed today that the willardsuitcases.com site is acting up a bit.  All of the information below the photograph on the splash page seems to have disappeared.  Fortunately everything else seems to be working, including access to the cases page.  I have a call in to Steve Fox who did a beautiful job designing the site, and I hope we can get it cleared up soon.

Willard Suitcases / Herman G

Peg and I started in on the returned Exploratorium cases yesterday, and it was great to get back to shooting.

Herman’s case was particularly interesting to me as most of his things related to photography.  It will be somewhat difficult to read this label on a computer monitor, but it reveals quite a bit about him.  He had been living in Sonyea, NY at the Craig Colony for Epileptics.  Lin Stuhler’s site has a good description of Craig here.  There is a note on this label stating “List of ??? [artifacts, contents?, I can’t quite read it] on reverse side of this cover”.

And here is that list.  You can see Herman’s signature on the top sheet that acknowledges receipt.

There were three lenses in the case, including this lovely Bausch and Lomb Tessar.

This was the 1930s idea of a light meter.

The collection includes quite a bit of correspondence from The American School of Photography in Chicago.  It seemed to be a well organized “learn at home” way of becoming a photographer.  Since all of the envelopes that contained the promotional materials were addressed to Herman in Sonyea, NY, I have to assume that he was learning to be a photographer while living at the Craig Colony.

For me, Herman’s story is particularly touching, and not just because of the photography connection.  I purposely don’t include too much of myself on this site, but sometimes I feel the need to open up a bit about the emotional impact of shooting these cases.  Our son Peter is an amazing guy.  He was a preemie, and spent months in the hospital after he was born.  He has cerebral palsy and a history of epilepsy.  He lives independently in DC and is a truly remarkable and inspirational person. I simply can’t imagine what his life would have been like had he been born in the 1920s, and when I think of Herman and his life in institutions, it breaks my heart.

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