Jon Crispin's Notebook

Walking and Bricks

Posted in Cities, Construction, Dogs, Landscape, Rivers, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized, Water by joncrispin on 15/06/2016

Nepal 14 June 2016

I have been spending my afternoons walking around Kathmandu.  Whenever I see bricks (and there are a lot of them here) I think of my friend Richard Pieper.  He loves bricks.  It is nice to be a photographer as it is impossible to ever be bored.  I see bricks, I think of Pieper, I see motor scooters and I am interested because I have a Vespa, I see people giving water to a stray, injured dog and I am touched, I see rivers and I think of Peter Carroll’s brother Alan who worked on water quality here a long time ago, and I see young children reading and I think of all the work Cris does in helping kids become literate.  I see these things, but I don’t always photograph them.  I am a bit self conscious about poking a camera into the lives of people who are just going about their days.  It always takes me a while to be comfortable, and the only way I can do so is to engage with the people I see.  It is a bit more difficult in a place where many speak only a bit of English, and I speak no Nepali.  But after today, I am beginning to see things that I want to photograph, and I know I will eventually wrap my head about how to go about it.  So today I am showing you bricks.

Nepal 14 June 2016

And another representation of Krishna.

Nepal 14 June 2016

Here is the Bishnumati River.  I almost didn’t take this picture,  and I almost didn’t post it here because it felt exploitative in a way.  Coming to a place like Kathmandu and pointing out what we Westerners think of as being messed up largely misses the point.  Water quality is a huge issue here.  This river is everything from a sewer to a rubbish heap and then some.  It is easy for me to say it should be cleaned up.  And it is easy for governments and NGOs to put money into doing just that.  But it is not easy, and there are a lot of people putting a ton of effort into sorting this problem out.  I just wonder what it will take.  Somewhere at its source this river came out of the mountains clean and pure.  Along the way it became this. I’m not really sure how to end here, but it is important for me to be a little optimistic, which I guess I still am.  Maybe someday.

Very Good News

I just received word from the New York State Museum that I have permission to start shooting more suitcases.  I’ll call them next week to set up a schedule.  This is a huge relief to me and I would like to publicly thank them for allowing this to happen. / This photograph was taken on 22 May, 1984 on the very first day that I was allowed into Chapin House.  It was a wild day.  My dear friend Richard Pieper was with me and basically ran interference as I was assigned two security guards to follow me around.  He would stop in the middle of doorways and turn around to ask a question thus holding them up so I could be left on my own a bit.  I remember feeling that I might not have much more access than on this day, so I shot 35 mm black and white film with my Leica rangefinders (these two shots), 35mm slide film with my Nikons, and 120 color negative film with my Pentax 6×7.  Almost everything great that I got out of this building came from this day. / I was so thrilled last evening to get an email from Michael Labate who was director of facilities planning for OMH at the time I was trying to access the buildings.  He single-handedly got me access to Willard and I will be forever grateful. He had heard about the suitcase project and was so complimentary about my work.

These broom-like devices weighed a ton and were used by the patients as they walked the corridors.  As it was explained to me, the  wooden floors were in constant need of maintenance, and paraffin would be put on chamois cloths attached to the bottom of these polishers.  I only ever shot this scene in black and white, but it is so very evocative to me.

Ellis Island

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Construction, History by joncrispin on 08/03/2012

I had the rarest of opportunities yesterday.  Pieper is giving a presentation on Ellis Island about the construction of the original buildings and he had me come out with him to take photographs to illustrate his talk.  It was an incredible day, and I was mostly in a state of near rapture.  I have always wanted to photograph the unrestored buildings on the island and am so grateful to Pieper and  Darcy Hartman of Save Ellis Island for the chance.  This photograph was taken in what I believe is called the Doctor’s (or Surgeon’s) residence.  I’ll post more in the days to come.  Here is some information on the talk: “The Actual Bricks and Mortar Story; Building Ellis Island’s Hospitals”.  10.30 to 12.30 on 15 April, 2012.  It is open to the public but limited to 50 participants.  For information, email    For anyone interested in these buildings this is a unique chance to don a hardhat and take a tour of the usually off limits parts of the island.

ElementalManhattan / Pieper

Posted in Art, Cities, Friends, People, Science, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 16/08/2011

This is my friend Richard Pieper.  I took this photograph in the elevator of his building in the East Village back in January.  (I think he is wearing earmuffs!)  Pieper is a great friend and a very interesting fellow.  Click here to see his latest project.  It is truly amazing.

Walk-Over Bucks

Posted in Clothing, History, People, Shoes, Work by joncrispin on 15/07/2011


I think Pieper was the first person I knew that wore Walk-Over Bucks.  They were part of the uniform of a small group of us in Ithaca in the 70’s.  Bucks, blue jeans, oxford shirt, and sometimes a tie if you were working or otherwise trying to fit in with people who cared about those things.  I must have owned at least five pairs over the years.  I have a basic wardrobe rule of thumb that you can wear pretty much anything below the belt as long as you have on a clean oxford shirt and a tie, hence the blue jean/bucks combo.  This particular pair was the last I was able to find.  I bought them in the early 90’s at Mathew’s Shoes (long since out of business) in downtown Amherst, and I think that Walk-Over had already ceased to be by that time.  I wasn’t able to find another pair anywhere and assumed that the company was done for.  /  In yesterday’s Times I saw an article about how this type of shoe is making a comeback and was shocked to see a pair of Walk-Overs in a photograph.  Someone has resurrected the brand and they are making them again.  They are now $225.00 but still probably worth the money.  I break this pair out once in a while and I think it is time to take them to the local cobbler to be resoled.

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