The mountain laurels are really wild this year. (Do I say this every year? I know there are previous posts about this plant, but really, this year is amazing.) One of the locals told me that this part of Pelham used to be called Mount Laurel and I can see why. When we look out the window it is almost like there is snow on the leaves of the plants.
I had a great dad’s day today. Peter is home from DC for a bit (the Nationals are on the road) and I got the chance to chill out and cook. I made another vegetable stock. As you can tell by the color, there were lots of beet peelings in it. You can see my previous posts about it here and here. I used some of it to make a wild rice thing for Cris and it was great.
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.
The Mail Online ran a nice article about the suitcases and used lots of photographs. I haven’t had the chance to read the whole piece, and will do so soon, but it looks nice. Here’s the link. I never read comments in articles like this since there are so many trolls about, and it can be distracting to read what other people think of the project. But as Cristine was looking at the story last night she read this one out loud and it really made me laugh on so many levels.
“To jump the queue to photographer fame before learning how to use lights, do what this guy did.”
- VegasWeddingPhotographer, Las Vegas, 10/6/2013 9:30
I am not even sure I can break it down, but as the work has received so much attention, I guess I have to acknowledge some level of “fame”. But the lighting thing is so great as I have never thought of myself as a studio photographer and would admit to not wanting to light these objects as if the were, well …… objects!. My goal with shooting the cases and their contents was to make the photographs look like what they appear to me in my mind’s eye. So for clarification, and to help anyone else who also wants to “jump the queue” I’ll include a photo that Peggy Ross took of me at work. Two strobes and a couple of big ass soft boxes (thanks Alex!). Works for me.
So a hearty welcome to all the new subscribers to this site, and thanks to Mail Online for the exposure.
I drove over to Albany yesterday to work with Peggy on the Willard suitcases website and meet with the museum people about resuming photographing the cases. The meeting went well and I really hope to be able to get started soon. I am planning to have the complete willardsuitcases.com site up and running in the next few weeks and it should be pretty cool. / This truck was parked at the Blandford rest area on the Mass Pike and for obvious reasons caught my eye.
We bought this plant at the Pelham Library plant sale and our great friend Kate Hudson told us that it was a primrose. The leaves look like one, but I have never seen a primrose flower like this. Cris planted it a few weeks ago and it is beautiful. Years ago I had made this bed out of mostly peat moss and it seems to like it (what plant wouldn’t?).
I’ve been thinking of my late parents quite a bit recently. The photograph is of my father’s family. They moved from Cornwall in the UK to Central City, Colorado where I believe this shot was taken. Dad turned me on to the Scottish writer John Buchan, and I have a large collection of his books; mostly hardbacks, but a few in these lovely old Penguin editions. These beautiful art deco bookends are marked “Genuine Rocky Mountain Alabaster” and come from Kohlberg’s / Denver, which I assume is or was some sort of a shop.
Pearl had some pretty heavy duty surgery on Tuesday. She had a large mast cell tumor on her side and it really needed to come off. Our wonderful vet Deb Lichtenberg thought it was a good thing to do, and we are glad we went through with it. The recovery has been going well so far. Off to get the temporary drain removed this afternoon and then another ten days before the stitches come out. I took this shot a few days before the operation. We never let her up on the furniture until about a year ago, but hey, she’s 12 and we want her happy.
Central stairway, Chapin House, Willard Asylum
There are a lot of great and interesting people working on New York State asylum issues. I have been following Lin Stuhler’s work on the Willard cemetery for a while, but only had the chance to meet her a few months ago. We keep in touch, and she just emailed me with a link to her recent blog post about the recent open house, and the bill she has been pushing in the state legislature to name the people buried at the graveyard. There is also a link to a really great video that was made by her local cable company. It is an interesting post and there is some nice video footage of some of the buildings and the cemetery. She has a real passion for this issue and should be commended for all the hard work she has done in the name of Willard patients.
Due to a remarkable set of circumstances I was invited to stay at the home of Toby and Jerry Levine while I was in San Francisco. My friend Meredith from the Pelham Cultural Council is a great friend of theirs and encouraged me to get in touch before my trip. They were super hosts and are both very involved in San Francisco neighborhood preservation and development. Toby serves on several boards and seems to be familiar with every important neighborhood issue both past and present. At one point early in my stay she asked me if I was interested in large industrial sites. Indicating that I was, she made arrangements for me to have a tour of a few buildings at Pier 70 that are slated for development.
I only had about an hour and just my little cameras with me, but Everardo, who interns with the development company gave us a grand tour of buildings 112/113 and 104.
I get so jazzed about shooting in these environments.
There is something about this time in the life of a building that intrigues me.
Since I was not able to photograph during its productive era, I can only imagine what was happening in these rooms when they were in use.
But there is usually enough evidence left behind to give an inkling to what it might have been like to work here.
And the light is always so natural and soft.
This building is huge. It was part of a ship building and dry dock facility which at one time was part of Bethlehem Steel. I believe that it was originally the Union Iron Works.
Which at one time must have employed a ton of people.
I especially like old locker rooms and bathrooms.
Nice sign over the urinals.
It is not difficult to imagine people using these sinks after a long day’s work.
I like this little office in the middle of everything.
This is a view of the second floor of 113.
How about the red fingernails painted on this stylized hand which points the way to the rest room?
This color green shows up regularly in buildings like this one. The light fixtures give a bit of a clue to when this office space was last renovated. I’d say mid 1960′s.
These last few shots are from building 104 which seems to have been mostly used for administrative offices.
This is the top floor of 104. You can just see the skylights which at some time were painted black.
The staircases are fantastic.
More lockers here, and it seems odd to me that they were in what was essentially an office building.
There was a small hospital in one wing of 104, and with all the machinery that is saw, I can imagine it was a busy place at times.
Thanks so much to the Orton Development people for granting me access to these amazing buildings. And of course to Toby and Jerry. Here are a few links to learn more about the site, its history, and future. Click here and here.
Yesterday I went to see the Nationals play the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco. It was an interesting game. Very few hits and not much scoring. The Nationals won in 10, 2 to 1. As you can see it was a beautiful day, perfect for baseball. I was at the mercy of the guy selling the tickets, and just asked for a very cheap seat. Ended up in section 302, which by my estimation is the nicest place to sit in the whole park. The only problem was that for the first time in all my years of going to baseball games, it was difficult to concentrate on the action with this amazing view of the bay always pulling me away from the game. Even if you HATE baseball, it is totally worth $24.00 to sit up here for an afternoon drinking a few beers and being part of a crowd of very friendly people. / After the game I blasted over to the offices of Collector’s Weekly and met with Hunter Oatman-Stanford who wrote this article about the suitcases that really opened a lot of doors for me. We were joined by two other editors and had a great chat about this and that. I was totally blown away when they told me that the story had generated roughly 600,000 views on their site. I really owe a lot to Hunter for his great interview and interest in the project. / Made it out to the airport in time to catch the redeye back to Boston. Got home at about 9.30 this morning and was happy to see the Pearl, who after a bit of a scare this weekend seems to be back on her feet.
I have never given much thought to whether or not I am an artist. And the whole idea of whether or not photography is an art is a whole ball of wax that I try to avoid. So when Pam Winfrey (whose idea it was to have the Exploratorium host the “Normal” exhibit) invited me to be part of an artist’s night, I said yes without giving it much thought. So it was a bit weird for me to be introduced to people as one of the artists whose work was on display. I’ll accept it for the time being but I doubt it will go to my head. The event was pretty cool. Since I was basically alone, I wandered around looking lost for a while before I ran into my refound friend Katie Hahren and her daughter Annie. That loosened things up a bit. Eventually Karen Miller and I ended up signing catalogues and chatting with guests. / One thing about San Francisco that I really like is that dogs seem to be accepted in most public places. When I was at the Exploratorium in February I met a 4 month old black lab who was on his way to work for only the second day. I can not imagine bringing the Pearl to an office job even now when she is 12 and mostly calm.
This is the new Exploratorium on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It is amazing. Go check it out if you ever get the chance.