Jon Crispin's Notebook

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 Suitcases / Michael B

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/08/2015

Here is another example of a complication in one’s life that could possibly lead to time spent at Willard.  It has not been unusual to find evidence of language problems in the lives of people who were patients there.  Obviously, there must have been other factors in Michael’s situation that led him to Willard, but we have never seen such a direct link to language issues.  (Michael was born Michele B in Italy.)  The pink note should be readable, but if not, here is the text.  “Please give this man something for his ear as he can not talk much english [sic] to make you understand what he wants.”  Very sad, and I wonder what the writer meant by “something for his ear”.  My first thought upon reading this was a reference to the Babel Fish which is featured in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books.

This is also the second case in which we found postcards having to do with the Lone Ranger.

Yesterday, we also photographed Lawrence Mocha’s suitcase.  I will do a longer post about him in the next few days.

Thanks for following.

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 / 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.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D

Posted in Asylums, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/02/2015

On Tuesday, Peg and I started in on Margaret D’s cases.  By all accounts she came to Willard with her entire household, which included a car.  There is so much of hers in the collection that we literally did not know where or how to start.  The first shot we took is of this remnant of a shipping label, and it seemed as good a place as any to begin.  She came to Willard from the Mount Morris TB Hospital, but I haven’t yet seen anything with a date on it to know for sure when she arrived.

It will take us weeks to get through her things, but now that we have started, I feel excited to proceed.  I will continue to post about her as we move ahead.

My son Peter sent me a link to an interesting article in Sunday’s Washington Post.  It is about a woman who struggles with a lot of the same issues that many Willard patients must have experienced.  Here is the link.

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