Photographer Jon Crispin first saw the abandoned Willard Asylum in the early ‘80s. Abandoned and boarded up, it appealed to his lifelong compulsion for “entering places where I shouldn’t have been.”
This compulsion led to a two-year project funded by the New York State Council for Arts to photograph 19th Century New York State Asylums: Silent Voices.
Jon’s relationship with Willard began in earnest when he visited an exhibition in the New York State Museum in the early 2000s. The Asylum had been converted to a prison facility and, during the renovation, roughly 400 suitcases, belonging to patients, were discovered, spanning the 20s-60s. The cases and their contents were meticulously cataloged and recorded by the museum.
Jon was granted access to photograph the cases, launched a Kickstarter Campaign and raised close to $20,000 to cover his expenses.
The project and the resulting images have created a stir; garnering attention in the media and inclusion in an upcoming exhibit at San Francisco’s Exploratorium* that opens April 17.
The images are delicate and reverential, never appearing to be exploitive, only respectful.