Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase / Elizabeth M

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 18/12/2013

At times I struggle a bit with most of the long-term projects on which I spend a great deal of time and energy.  I realize that it is a normal part of the process, and having questions about what I am trying to do actually gives me a chance to think and, I hope, eventually get some answers.

During the first phase of this work, most of the cases that I was shooting were quite full of items that folks brought with them to Willard.  Craig Williams rightly thought that since my time was limited, I should concentrate on the most “interesting” cases.  Once I became committed to a complete documentation of all of the roughly 430 suitcases, I realized that most of the ones that I hadn’t shot were empty.  But empty is a relative term here.  In addition to the paper tags that identify the owner of each case, there is a beauty in the suitcase itself, and in the fabric lining, and in the straps designed to hold people’s clothing secure during transit.  Occasionally there will be some other random object; a hair pin, a button, a luggage tag, a newspaper clipping.

On Monday I was beginning to think that my interest in these empty cases was somewhat misplaced.  The project had gotten so much attention early on, and I understand that it was due primarily to what the cases contain, and what those contents say about the individuals that own them.  While shooting, I was feeling that fewer people would be interested in the empty ones, and I was bothered by that.  I thought about it a lot during my drive home from Rotterdam, and I began to remember what I always talk about when speaking about art and creativity.  Ultimately, the only reason to create art is to please the person who is creating it.  If others are affected by it, that is a huge bonus.  All I know right now is that I look at the photographs I took of this case and I see a life.  I see that her name was Elizabeth and that she came to Willard on 30 November, 1951. I see that she had a beautiful leather suitcase, and that someone in her family had the name Mary.  And I am really moved by this and hope to be able to move others when they look at these pictures.

So I am really jazzed about continuing.  The video for the next Kickstarter appeal is done and I have to decide when to get it up and running.  Right now I am thinking that early to mid January is the time, and I will certainly post about it here.  In the meantime, thank you all for following the project.  I really appreciate the comments and emails that come my way.

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