Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Rodrigo L

Posted in Asylums, Mental Health, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 24/07/2015

Willard Suitcases

Rodrigo was a reader.  His collection of books was extensive and interesting.

Rodrigo L

He was also a bit of a writer. Below is a novel that he wrote that was part of his library.

Rodrigo L

It is interesting how he changed the dedication.

Rodrigo L

He must have been working with some sort of editor or teacher, as there are lots of corrections in red ink.

Rodrigo L

Some of his books were from his days at Salt Lake High School.  The collected issues of the school publication “Red and Black” were among his books.

Rodrigo L

This was the only evidence of his byline that I could find.

Rodrigo L

Frustrating to have to obscure his surname.

There is so much amazing material here, and I have to keep reminding myself that I am just documenting the collection as a photographer, and not as a social historian.  The temptation is to photograph everything that made his life so interesting, but I reckon I would never finish.

Peggy was especially helpful is setting up and organizing our work yesterday.  Here is a shot of her cheerful presence in front of a setup for which she was largely responsible.  Thanks Peg.

Peggy Ross

Willard Suitcases / Fred T / NYSHA presentation / La Repubblica

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 09/06/2014

Hi everyone.  Fred T’s suitcase is really interesting.  I have just uploaded it to the willardsuitcases.com site and you should check it out (Click on “The Cases” and then click on Fred T).  It was a great case for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it proves that many residents of Willard were free to walk the grounds and to leave on occasion.

He also clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Fred’s other interest was railroads.  He made a comprehensive list of every train station in the United States.

The stations were alphabetized on these sheets of paper that were then folded into three columns.  On the open one you can see Meadville, PA, which is the town where I grew up.  My parents used to pile my siblings and me into the station wagon and we would go down to watch the evening passenger train go through.

It is poignant to see the dates on Fred’s diary.  It makes his life seem all the more real to me.  Sunday the 11th April, 1926 was a day that Fred wrote about, and now we are able to learn something about his life more than 88 years later .  Amazing

This coming Saturday morning (14 June), Karen Miller and I will be talking about our work with the suitcases at the annual conference of the New York State Historical Association.  It will be held at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.  There is a Saturday only fee of $25.00 to attend, but it would be great to see any of you who could make it.  Karen will be reading some of her poems and I will talk about my work with the cases.

Finally, the Italian site La Repubblica did a very nice spread on the project.  Check it out here.  Thanks Agnese!

Binghamton Asylum Glass Plate Negatives

Posted in Asylums, History, Medicine, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 04/02/2013

In the late 1980’s Brad Edmondson and I went down to the Binghamton asylum buildings that I was photographing for my original New York State asylum project.  While were in the “Castle” building we came across a room that was filled with boxes of glass plate negatives of patients from the early days of the asylum.  It was an amazing trove of images and we immediately hoped to be able to do something with them.  We had no luck getting access, but I have thought about them over the years.  Craig Williams from the New York State Museum arrived at the facility on the morning of 11 September, 2001 to have a look, but events of that day put the kibosh on his access.  About a month ago I heard that the Broome County Historical Society had finally made arrangements to check out the plates.  On Friday I went to Binghamton to have a look at their efforts to organize, clean, and catalogue every plate.  It is such a relief to know that they are finally in safe hands and will be preserved.

The negative’s eventual home  is still up in the air, but the Greater Binghamton Heath Center which runs the facility is eager to get them into safe hands.  Here you see one of the volunteers cleaning the non emulsion side of a plate.  They are all a bit dusty, but otherwise in amazing condition.

Here’s another box of unexposed plates.  Love the graphic design.

I am always on the lookout for bits of ephemera from the buildings.  Another object from the collection is this very cool typewriter.

I’ve never seen one like this and haven’t had the time to research the brand.  Anyone out there ever heard of the Printype Oliver Typewriter?

It is a beautiful machine and I like the little character in the photo below.

Old keyboards are also interesting.

Thanks to the Broome County Historical Society and the Greater Binghamton Health Center for allowing me to see the plates.  And to Roger Luther who like me has a great interest in New York State asylums.

Hadley Hall Projection Room

Posted in Art, Community, ephemera, Film, History, Movies by joncrispin on 16/07/2012

This is a bit of an experiment.  When I was out at Willard recently, I shot the bowling alley in Hadley Hall and then went upstairs to the projection room.  The lighting was the weirdest I have come across.  I shoot most of this stuff in RAW, so that I have tons of latitude when it comes to editing the photos.  I messed around with these images for a long time and I could NOT get the color to look good.  The walls were yellowish and there were mixed fluorescents.  Rather than get discouraged and stuff the whole idea of a post I decided to convert to black and white and see how they look online.  Funny, since in the days of film I used to shoot this sort of thing in black and white much of the time.

The tradition for the projectionists was to write the name of the film and the date it was shown on the walls.

Lots of interesting films here.  For example, “All Fall Down” was shown on 13 January, 1963, and Apache Rifles got a (Good) rating.

And here “The Glass Slipper” was shown on 14 April, 1956.  And these were all 35mm prints!

What really interests me about the asylum having shown first run movies is that the residents of the institution were able to attend, as were the people who lived in the surrounding towns.  From what I have been told, the townsfolk sat in the balcony and the asylum residents sat downstairs.

I like these notes for the projectionist.  There must have been someone downstairs who could send some sort of signal in case of a problem.

The projection room seemed to me to be almost totally intact.  The sheet of paper here might be hard to read online, but at the top of the list is “Back To The Future”.

Here’s another of the projection lenses.  A beautifully made optic.

There was still quite a bit of paperwork lying around.

I was just blown away by this room and its contents.

It is really hard to put into words just how fortunate I am to get into places like this, and how important it is to me to be able to preserve images of something that very few people can see for themselves.

So, thank you all for checking in and encouraging me to do this kind of work.  I am off to Rotterdam tomorrow to shoot more suitcases and will post an update to that project very soon.

Hudson River Psychiatric Center

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, History by joncrispin on 10/02/2012

I was in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday photographing at the recently closed Hudson River Psychiatric Center.  I have been there many times and it was a bit sad to know that the facility was closing. / When I was shooting shuttered asylum buildings for my earlier projects, they were all from the 19th century.  Those buildings and their contents came from such a markedly different time which was part of the reason it was such compelling work for me. When I was thinking about my photographs from Tuesday I realized that in the future, someone will look at this photo and have the same feeling.  To our eyes, this isn’t such an unusual scene; fifty from now it will seem truly exotic.

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