Jon Crispin's Notebook

Julianne Wick Davis / Grand Central Station

songcyclejoe'swp

The evening at Joe’s Pub was amazing.  Julianne Wick Davis’ song cycle based on my suitcases photos was really incredible.  I was completely blown away by her talent and drive to get this going.  The project is still in the early stages of development, but it is so exciting to have been an inspiration to her. / I was so thrilled that my buddy from Wittenberg, Chris Brigham came out from Chicago for the event.  It was so great to see her.

I am on the Metro North train heading back to New Haven which goes in and out of Grand Central Station.

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It is quite a place.

The suitcases site has been having a slew of problems of late.  We are close to getting it sorted and it is currently back up and running.  It appears that it has been innundated with bot attacks attempting to take over the site.  Thanks to Steve Fox at Born Digital for all his hard work.  It has been very frustrating and costly, but fingers crossed we are working towards a resolution.  Cheers all, and thanks for following.

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Editing

Freda B Willard Suitcase

This was the first case I photographed.  It was the 17th of March 2011.  Craig Williams had given me permission to gain access to the collection and I was very excited.  I remember setting up my wrinkled background and fiddling with my lights.  It struck me at the time that it would be interesting to document the entire process of shooting the cases, including what they looked like after the museum had wrapped them back up after the conservation process.

This is part of what I saw when I finally got the case open.  Quite a way to start the project.  This is what I posted about that first day.

Today at about 2.30 I finished editing all of the cases that we have shot, and uploaded the final photographs to the suitcases site.  This case belonge to Lawrence R.  I especially like the headline in the Democrat and Chronicle.

This day has been a long time in coming.  We will see what happens with the project in the fullness of time, but I am very excited and happy to have made it this far.

Connie Houde was kind enough to take this picture of Peg and me on that last day of shooting.  I think champagne might have been involved.

There are too many folks to thank for all of the support, encouragement, and love that I have felt since I began photographing the suitcases in 2011.  But I think of you all the time.  Thank you all.

Willard Suitcases / Rodrigo L again

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

I am back to editing more of Rodrigo L’s papers.  This is an amazing photo postcard. / Rodrigo lived in Salt Lake City during his high school years.  Many of his yearbooks are in his collection as well as a ton of materials related to his Pilipino experience in the US .

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

He came to the American West sometime in the early part of the 20th Century, which makes me wonder what his experience adapting to his new life was like.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

You can check out the latest at the suitcases site.

I have just three more shoots to edit.  I have a feeling that when I finish that part of the project I will be very emotional and a little bit at sea.  Still lots to do though, including finding a publisher and museums / galleries for exhibits.  I started shooting the cases in March of 2011.  It has been quite a run.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I have posted about Madeline before and her possessions represent a very interesting life before she came to Willard.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Throughout this project I have consciously tried to avoid obvious links between the objects in the collection and any sort of connection to being institutionalized, but  I found it interesting that this was the only recording among Madeline’s things.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She came to Willard with a fairly complete record of her life in New York City, including her time studying at Columbia University and Hunter College.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She seemed to be interested in philosophy.  There were quite a few references to Bergson in her papers.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her handwriting was really lovely.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her diaries were especially complete.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I searched online for this poem thinking that she might have copied it as an exercise in writing in English (her first language was French), but nothing turned up.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

In any event, it is an incredible piece of writing.

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Madeline C

It is especially interesting how well her life was documented in photographs, and that most of the images also had their original negatives.  Looking at the dates in her diaries, many of these were taken in the 1920s.

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Madeline C

The fox stole around her neck in the picture on the right is something that one doesn’t see anymore.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

I have stayed in the Prince George Hotel on W. 27th Street twice in my life.  Once in high school with my friends Jay, Jeff, and Dennis.  That was an interesting trip!  And once sometime in the 80s shortly before it became an SRO.  Quite interesting as well.

You can check out the photos of Madeline’s cases at the Willard Suitcases site.  Click on “The Cases”, scroll to the bottom and click on Madeline C.  Be sure to click “view all” as there are many more than 25 images.  The site was hacked into recently and everything seems to be sorted now.  Huge thanks to Steve Fox at Born Digital Web Design for getting it fixed.  He’s the man if you need a photo site set up.

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 / Margaret D / 17 June 2015

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

I am pretty sure that this was the last day we photographed any of Margaret D’s things. It is possible that as I move through the editing process I will come across more of her possessions, but I think this is it.

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

It was a mixed bag of items that we saw on this day.

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

Here is more of her work with a needle and thread.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D

This little button caught my eye.

Willard Suitcases  Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

I did a quick internet search for “TU-TEE” and found nothing.  This almost never happens anymore.  A commercial product with an interesting concept and zilch!  “This game is something different, and enjoyed by old and young alike.  It is replacing progressive card games in many sections of the country.”  Apparently not in that many sections of the country or there would be some evidence of it.  (Edit.  As I was reading this post once it was public, I realized that the type face on the TU-TEE box looks exactly like the one I use for all of these posts.  It is Palatino, and I’ve been using it for years.  What a strange coincidence.)

Willard Suitcases  Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

This cup and saucer are so delicate and lovely.

So, that’s it for Margaret.  Hers is the most complete collection of household and personal items in all of the cases that I shot, and in a funny way, it is difficult to move on to other Willard patients.  Up next though is Herman G, whose story is fascinating in its own way. Thanks for following.  You can see all of the cases here, and all of Margaret’s here.  (Don’t forget to click on the “500” button at the bottom of the page, as I think the default page only shows the first 25.  And as there are over 600 photos in her collection, you have to click on the “next” button to see the rest.)

 

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 14 April 2015

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am working my way through Margaret’s cases and her collection never ceases to amaze me.  You can see the latest here. (Don’t forget to click “view all” as there are now close to 500 images in her collection.)

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret brought quite a number of sewing items with her when she came to Willard, including the above stencil with Masonic designs.

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am currently editing a shoot that was mostly delicate items like the above undergarment, as well as some of her nursing uniforms.  I’ll have a post up sometime in the next few days with those photos.

I would also mention that Margaret was one of the 10 folks originally featured in the State Museum’s 2004 exhibit.  The made-up surname they used for her was Dunleavy and if you do a search for her name and Willard you should come across very detailed information about her life.  The “Lives They Left Behind” book has a surprisingly complete history of her life before Willard.

I am often asked about how much I know about the patient’s lives before and during their time at the institution.  It is way too complex for me to elaborate here, but needless to say, I have very strong feelings about my need to separate the patient’s clinical lives from what we can learn about them through their possessions.  I tend to talk about it when I present the project to various groups, so maybe one day we will get the chance to meet up and chat.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 2 March 2015

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I just uploaded another batch of photos to Margaret’s page.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (Make sure you click on the “view all” button; the default view is 25 per page.)

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I think this little Devon Violets vase is beautiful.

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This lone pill was wrapped in the paper on which it is placed.  It is difficult to read the pencil writing but it looks like amid(something) barbital.

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Having seen other photographs of her, I am quite certain that it is Margaret in these shots.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for following.

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.

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

willard suitcases

We saw several of these Yardley Talc containers.

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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 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.

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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.

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