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.
One of the projects I did back in the 80s was a documentation of late 19th and early 20th century New York State prison architecture (funded by the New York State Council on the Arts). I shot it all with my 4 x 5 Wista and it is nice to look at the photographs from time to time. This shot at the Elmira Correctional Facility is the only one I took with evidence of a prisoner (note the guy’s hands on the lower left holding the mirror as he is checking me out). The corrections people were super nice to me, although I am pretty sure they could not really grasp what I was up to. If I remember correctly, this is one of the few NY State prisons with this traditional set up….just like in the movies!
I’ll be heading back out to San Francisco on Sunday for an Exploratorium event Monday evening. Thinking about trying to get together with any of you who are interested. Any ideas about a pub somewhere near the Embarcadero where we could hang out at the end of the day on Tuesday? Shoot me an email if you have any ideas.
I am going to break a few of my self-imposed rules in this post. I have always assumed that the reason people come to this site was to see interesting aspects of the world that they might not otherwise notice. I have never wanted it to be about me. But this post is mostly personal.
Peter Carroll and I have been working on a project on Tilghman Island for the past several years. In conjunction with the Tilghman Island Waterman’s Museum, we have been documenting the life of the watermen for two films that Peter has been shooting. The second of those films had its premier on Saturday evening at the elementary school. The auditorium was full and everyone loved it.
Then on Sunday Cristine and I flew to New Orleans where she was to receive an award from the Commission on Adult Basic Education. We walked around the city most of the day yesterday and it was as amazing to me as everyone said it would be.
Cris got the Kenneth J. Mattran Award for “Promoting Literacy Nationally and Internationally”. I was so proud and it was great to see people come up to her and thank her for being so inspirational.
After the luncheon we bugged out and walked back to the French Quarter. I would love to have seen this neon sign lit up, but The Pearl was closed today. Next stop was Cafe´du Monde for beignets and coffee. Later as we were walking down an almost totally deserted RiverWalk, we saw a video crew doing a stand up shot of a guy with the river in the background. It turned out to be Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel.
So here’s where I really break my self-imposed rule (don’t ever have a picture of me in this blog). My great friend Tania Werbizky has at various times in her life been totally obsessed with the Weather Channel. After Jim was done with his work, I approached him and asked if I could take a photograph. He was so nice and immediately suggested that he and I be in the shot. So Tania, I mentioned you to Jim effing Cantore. How’s about that?
Our hotel is just next to the Superdome and this is the view from the 17th floor hallway. / It is impossible to walk around this city and not think of hurricane Katrina and the devastation it caused. And looking at this building that housed so many people in such great need is more than a bit unsettling. This is an amazing part of America and I feel fortunate to have finally made it down here.
Slate Magazine ran a really nice piece on the Willard Suitcase project. Here’s the link. Big thanks to David Rosenberg for his interest and doing a great job choosing and laying out the photos. / When I was recently in San Francisco I stayed at this place. It is a great old building and the staff are loads of fun.
I have always given primary credit to Craig Williams for saving the Willard suitcases, and his contribution to the preservation of these objects was enormous. But if it wasn’t for Beverly Courtwright’s connection to Willard and her tremendous respect for the patients and their lives, the cases would have been lost forever. On Saturday I got the chance to meet her for the first time, and thanks to the corrections folks who now control the site, we were allowed to go into the attic for a few minutes. It is behind this door that in May of 1995 Bev “rediscovered” the cases. She had become one of the Willard employees heavily involved with the transition team responsible for shutting down the psych center. As a storehouse clerk, part of her task was to go through all the buildings to determine what should be saved and what could be thrown out. She described the first time she opened this door and saw the cases stacked up as a surreal experience, and told me that she felt a “whoosh of energy” sweep over her.
She grew up in the area, and as a child remembers Willard patients coming to her home through the Family Care program that allowed for patients not in need of direct care to live temporarily in private homes.
This is what the attic now looks like when you walk through the door. The racks are on either side of the attic with men’s cases on one side and women’s on the other. When Bev was talking about being up here for the first time it literally gave me chills.
You can see the letters on the racks representing the first initial of the surname of each patient. Whomever set up the system did an amazing job. I find it so interesting that as in the residential parts of the buildings, men and women were segregated up here as well.
There were a very few items left behind that could not be linked to a specific patient. This coat was one of them. / As my work on this project continues, I am constantly overwhelmed by the people I meet and the stories that they have to tell. Late last night I got an email letting me know of a new comment on this post. Scroll down toward the bottom of the comments section and read what Stephanie had to say. / Getting into the attic and meeting Bev really tied together everything that I have been trying to say with my work on this project. She is a truly remarkable person with a huge heart and the ability to convey a great sense of connection to the people who were at Willard, and I just want to thank her for all she has done.
I am not really sure what to call this post. Just now when I uploaded the photograph, I saw that my shorthand for it was “stadium thing”. I guess I’ll go with that. I believe that it was built to sell snacks during UMASS football games, but I have never seen it in use. If you look to the right of the photo you will note that there is a second one just to the south. I have spent a lot of time around sports venues and never seen anything like it. Oddly beautiful though.
On the first of January bells were rung around Massachusetts at 2 pm to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. I had heard that Pelham was going to join in and we went up to the historical society to have a look. This building used to be a church. It was built in 1839 when the government made the town move the worship area out of the town hall due to separation of church and state. The town hall (built 1743) is right next door and is interesting in that it is the oldest town hall in continuous use in the United States. The October town meeting is convened in it and then moved down to the school to be able to hold everyone. Pelham is also interesting in that it is the home of Daniel Shays. It is worth reading about him if you are interested in American history. His story is amazing.
Anyway, we arrived at the historical society and a few folks had shown up to participate. The single bell in the belfry was cast in England in the 1830s and has been out of service for a long time. Somehow enough money was found to conduct an engineering assessment of the structure to make sure that if it were rung the whole thing wouldn’t just collapse. It checked out OK (as they say); a new pull rope was attached and it was ready to go. We all took our turns and it was a surprisingly moving experience.
Cris and I are in DC visiting Peter. He is amazing and is doing really well. We took the time for a quick visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I can never get enough of it and I always come back to this part of the building which is near the Lunder Conservation Center. If any of you reading this are in the area and have never been here you really should make the effort. There is a great wood fired pizza place a couple of blocks away called The Matchbox. Get a small pizza and see some art!
Two of my friends from Meadville were killed in Viet Nam. Jim Rudd was a neighbor whom I knew quite well. We spent a lot of time together at the YMCA and I can remember his talking about his interest in Native American culture. He was a very sweet guy. He was a private in the Marines and died on 6 August, 1968.
I knew David Dragosavac less well, but Meadville was small and I am pretty sure we were on the Y swim team together at one point. David was a Sergeant in the Army and was killed on 1 April, 1970.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is really worth a visit. Very moving.