Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / John R (again) / Quote

willard suitcases

I have learned so much from people who stumble across the project and take the time to comment.  Simon wrote in to say this about the photographs.  “The psychology of keeping belongings is as complicated and as deep as the human spirit itself, the depth of which we will never see. Lets hope recording this project takes us closer.”

Willard Suitcases Project

Thanks, Simon.  Such a perceptive look at my work with the collection, and I really appreciate your insight.

willard suitcases

I had photographed John R’s case over two different days, and yesterday when I edited and uploaded the photographs from the second shoot I was reminded how much fun it was to see what he brought with him to Willard.

Willard Suitcases Project

He clearly had a thing for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, as well as for these discreetly covered women.

willard suitcases

John was clearly learning to speak English, as there were lots of worksheets where he was practicing his vocabulary.

Willard Suitcases Project

It is possible that John worked for a time at GE as he had these brochures about insurance and a pension plan.

willard suitcases

The Mickey Rooney photo is pretty nice.

This is a good time to remind you all about the comments on this site.  It is not obvious where to click to see them, but it usually worth the effort.  At the very bottom of the post is a small “comments” button.  Click it to see what folks are saying.  The dress that I posted last week has been getting quite a few interesting responses, including an amazing one that just came in from my pal Dhyan.  Check it out.

Willard Suitcases / John R / Talks

willard suitcases

When I talk about the project I am often asked if I have a favorite suitcase.  My answer is always the same; from the start, I have seen the collection as a whole and no case stands out to me. But I do have some favorite photographs from the project, and this is one of them.

willard suitcases

 The dark glasses are pretty cool.

willard suitcases

This was the first time I had ever seen an actual Shinola tin.

willard suitcases

We saw several of these Yardley Talc containers.

willard suitcases

I have uploaded the rest of the photos from John’s case at the suitcases site.  Check it out!

There are two upcoming events near to me where I will be talking about the suitcases.  I’ll have copies of the second Kickstarter reward book for sale at the Hadley, MA Barnes & Noble this Saturday the 18th.  I’ll be there from 2.00 – 5.00 PM.  Come by and say hi.  And on Monday I will be giving a talk at the Amherst Woman’s Club.  I expect to start at 1.00 PM.

Thanks for following!

Willard Patient Dress / Part 2

The Willard Suitcase Project

This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.

The Willard Suitcase Project

There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.

The Willard Suitcase Project

In the image below, I love how the two horizontal lines at the bottom of the dress seem to me to indicate water.  And is that a spigot just above the lines?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is the reverse side of the above figure.  I was thinking at the time we were shooting that people who do embroidery might like to see this view.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The faces she does are so expressive.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is another detail of a hand, and I am not sure what is represented coming out of what appears to be a pocket.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Is this another face?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Her use of lines is very cool.

The Willard Suitcase Project

I have been trying to figure out how the grid below fits in to the overall design.  At first I thought it represented a building, but I am not so sure.

The Willard Suitcase Project

And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

Thanks for checking this out.  I will continue my efforts to find the name of the Willard patient who created this.  In the meantime you can continue to see the latest uploads of the cases at the Willard Suitcases site.

Willard Patient Dress / Part 1

The Willard Suitcase Project

There are quite a few items in the Willard collection at the New York State Museum that are not part of my suitcases documentation.  These “institutional” pieces were too numerous to photograph, but this embroidered dress just had to be documented.  The work was done by a patient who is not identified, but I am in touch with some folks who worked at Willard who might know who created this.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This will be a photo heavy post with less text than in my usual posts, but the details in the dress are amazing and I wanted to share as many as I could.

The Willard Suitcase Project

It wasn’t just the amazing designs; the precision of the embroidery knocked us out.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

There were a good number of cats on the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This one seems to be hovering over a plant.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Not sure what is going oh above, but the orange is such a beautiful color.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This looks to me like a cat but what is it doing?  Any thoughts?

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

I love how this person’s hair is rendered.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The orange flower in her hair is lovely.

The Willard Suitcase Project

These little flowers are so delicate.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The watch and ring on this figure are such a nice touch.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Thanks so much to Peg Ross for helping me set the dress up in order to photograph it.  I am terrible at stuff like this, and as usual, she really made it happen.  And if I remember correctly, Connie Houde from the museum was also there to assist.

I hope to post the back of the dress (I want to keep calling it a shift; is that correct?) sometime soon.  I leave Atlanta later today but will head out to the Botanical Garden before my flight.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Issac and Alice

20140204152wp

I continue to make good progress uploading to the suitcases site.  Issac’s case had just a few items, but the buttons are nice, as well as the safety pins.  I especially like the folding coat hangar.

20140204198wp

Peggy and I were thrilled to open Alice’s case and see the beautiful lining.

Check out the latest at willardsuitcases.com.

Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / More Labels / Peg

Willard Suitcases

I am just about finished up editing the December 2013 shoots.

Willard Suitcases

The cases were mostly empty, but this newspaper is interesting.  It describes a particularly tragic boating accident in Alexandria Bay, NY that occurred in August of 1929.  I did a bit or research.  Here’s a link to an online newspaper archive that goes into some detail.  It wasn’t completely unusual for a suitcase to contain a complete section of a newspaper and little else.  I wonder if H. L. had any connection to the Lipe family.  (Lipe is not his surname.)

Willard Suitcases

Walter arrived in February of 1945.  Nelson Rockford Socks are still available.

Willard Suitcases

Mary Agnes’ case just had this little metal clasp, a shoelace, a hairpin, and a label.

Willard Suitcases

And a pair of “leather-like” boots.

Willard Suitcases

Baker’s case was the only one where we found a bit of “racy” material.  Look closely to see the title of the painting.  Cheeky!

Willard Suitcases

The storage facility wasn’t always the warmest place to work (except in the summer).  Peggy Ross was always such a sport though, and only rarely complained.  We ate a lot of  hot/sour soup from the local Chinese restaurant for lunch, which helped us get through the day.

Check out the Willard Suitcases site to see the latest.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Stuart B / Oscar Wilde

Willard Suitcases 2013 Jon Crispin

I am getting a lot of editing done lately, and am feeling great about the images.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

Stuart’s (maybe Stuert, it appears both ways) case was full of interesting toiletries.  Several of the residents had Dr. Lyon’s Tooth Powder.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

I have always wanted to avoid “fetishizing” the objects that came to Willard with the patients, but the design of the items in Stuert’s case really grabbed me.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

The attention to detail in commercial design during the time of these products is impressive.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

This Ever-Ready shaving brush had quite a bit of use.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

I love the typeface (or is it font?) on the Mennen talcum powder.  One wonders about the “neutral” tint, and on just how many faces it wouldn’t show.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

The above image is one of my favorites from the project.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

The Mennen Company is still in business, and are mostly known for their deodorants.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

Lander Perfumer; New York, Memphis, Montreal, and……Binghamton!

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

I am glad I (or Peg) thought to photograph the back of the “Locktite Humidizer”.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

It keeps your tobacco fresh, and they are definitely out of business.

Willard Suitcases ©2013 Jon Crispin

Thanks for following.  I have been uploading a ton of new cases on the Willard Suitcases site.  Go check it out, and don’t forget to click on the “view all” link at the bottom of each page.  25 is the default number and in many instances, there are more than that number in the gallery.

I was listening to “With Great Pleasure” on Radio 4 today while I was editing these photographs and heard this Oscar Wilde quote from “De Profundus”.  “Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground”.  I think he was right on the money.

Willard Suitcases / Labels / Books

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

I have been spending a lot of time editing the suitcases in the past few weeks, and have set  a goal to finish all of that work by early April.  Over the 5+ years of shooting, the amount of images generated is quite massive.  So check out the willardsuitcases.com site if you haven’t been there lately.  All of the recent folks are at the bottom of “The Cases” page.  I am uploading on a regular basis.  Most of the cases that I have been working on are not very full, but the labels are so evocative.  Bertha S was clearly at the Newark State School (The New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women) before she came to Willard.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

Florence G. arrived at Willard in 1936 and lived in Eliott Hall.  Her two cases contained little more than some coat hangars, a key, and a label.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

On Ida’s label, the “returned from family” line is interesting and a bit sad.  One always wonders what kind of connection the patients at Willard had with their families.

Willard Suitcases Project

Ellen H. arrived in March of 1967.  This type of tie down ribbon was common in many of the suitcases.  The green is such a beautiful color.

20161130012wp

When I ran the second Kickstarter appeal, the top reward was a limited edition book that was for backers at the $500.00 level.  I had 40 printed and still have a few left that are numbered and signed.  If you would like to help the project in a big way, I would be most grateful for the support.

 Many of you have asked about a book, and I realize that $500.00 is beyone the budget of a lot of the followers of this project. So I have had another run of the reward book printed.  It is a slim volume that contains 32 suitcase photos and a picture of the attic where the cases were stored, along with a bit of text.  I am selling these for $60.00 + $10.00 shipping and they are really beautifully designed and printed.  If you are interested, send me an email at jon@willardsuitcases.com.  You will then get an invoice through Square, which processes my transactions, and once payment is made, I will ship it right out. Paypal also works for me, and if you email me, I’ll give you the details. If you want one for yourself and one as a gift, I’ll send along two for $100.00 (plus the $10.00 shipping).

Thanks again for following and for all the support.

Dix Hospital Cemetery / Willard Suitcases

The visit to WUNC went really well.  Frank Stasio was a great interviewer and it was fun to chat with him and Rose Hoban, whose interest in the suitcases brought me to Raleigh for the Lives on the Hill event.  Here is a link to the broadcast.

Dix Hospital Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

I am staying with my friends Eric and Gail Vaughn and yesterday they drove me over the Dix grounds so I could get my bearings.  I saw this marker for the cemetery and we stopped to walk around.

Dix Hospital Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

I was actually shocked to see that the grave markers used names instead of numbers as New York State does.  And it made me both sad and angry that New York still refuses to allow former patients to be identified.

Dix Hospital Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

It would seem such an easy thing to change, but New York State OMH has no interest in doing so.

Dix Hospital Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

Please go to Lin Stuhler’s site and read her goodbye post.  She has said it much better than I ever could.

Tonight is the reception at The Mahler Fine Art gallery in Raleigh and tomorrow is the big public event.  If you are in the area please come by.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases /Karen Miller / Archives

Willard Suitcases Project
New York State Archives records shoot

When I started photographing the suitcases, I really had no idea what I was doing, or where the project would go.  Very early on, Craig Williams introduced me to poet and psychiatrist  Dr. Karen Miller, and it has been amazing to “share” the suitcases with her over the five plus years that we have had access to the collection.  Because of her, I was included in the Exploratorium Exhibit in San Francisco, and because of her, I gained so much insight into the lives of the patients at Willard.  She has illuminated the human side of the folks who, in many cases, lived their entire lives at the institution.

Willard Suitcases Project
New York State Archives records shoot

I have always seen the suitcases and their contents as a reflection of who the patients were before, and during their time at Willard.  Because Karen went through the lengthly and difficult process of gaining access to the medical records of the suitcase owners, she was able to explore the clinical and bureaucratic side of their lives.  On many occasions, we worked side by side at the museum storage facility in Rotterdam and were able to talk about what inspired us about the collection.

Willard Suitcases Project
New York State Archives records shoot

In many ways, I didn’t want to learn too much about the reason these folks ended up at Willard, since it was important to me to feel a connection to them through their possessions.

Willard Suitcases Project
New York State Archives records shoot

So it was with some trepidation that Peg Ross and I made arrangements to spend the day in the New York State Archives photographing some of the massive case files of the suitcases owners.  Karen spent quite a bit of time getting Peg and me access to this otherwise closed collection, and I want to thank her so much for her efforts.  It was a remarkable day, and so nice to be working close to Karen again.

I am still not sure what I will do with these photos, but I do know that they’ll eventually be a part of whatever happens with my work on the suitcases.

As I was profusely thanking Karen for all that she has contributed to my work on the collection, she remarked on something that really resonated with me.  I’ll paraphrase here, but she said something to the effect that the most important things she has done in her life have been in collaboration with others.  I feel that so deeply.  Without Craig Williams, I would never had been able to begin the project.  Without Peggy Ross I would never have photographed the entire collection, and without Karen I wouldn’t have anywhere near the insight as to what life as a patient at Willard would have been like.  It is so fulfilling to be part of a team of such creative, smart, and great people, and I am so grateful to each for their help and support.

%d bloggers like this: