Dear David,

In my world there are no coincidences. Everything happens in perfect timing. I came across your website through a posting of your work on the internet. I followed the link and found a series of photographs entitled “Asylum”. I was immediately drawn to them and found myself welling up with tears. They were haunting and touched me deeply. There was one in particular that humbled me, saddened me and gave me strength all at the same time. It was called “faith . . .”.  I immediately thought of my 3rd Great Grandmother, Ann Eliza Velsor Smith who was the cousin to Walt Whitman’s mother, Lousia Velsor Whitman. She was the mother of to nine children. Her youngest, Elizabeth Parr Smith, was my 2nd Great Grandmother.

In April of 1832, Ann Eliza’s husband died in the cholera epidemic in New York City.  She was 

left with the nine children ages 6 months through 12. She was committed to the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum where she died 32 years later.  I don’t believe she was insane but rather suffering from a great loss and deep grief.  Her children were given to relatives and close friends but she never again saw the outside world. 

I was incredibly saddened when this story was passed to me. When I saw your photograph, “faith . . .”, I had a moment of knowing that faith must have carried her through her grief and dark days inside the walls of the asylum. I imagined her room as it was in your photograph. The praying hands, the peeling paint, the aloneness, the isolation and solitude. I believe that Ann Eliza spoke to me through your powerful photograph. I believe she let me know that her faith carried her. I believe she let me know she was ok. I believe that her message came to me through your work to help me with my loss and grief. 

I am blessed and honored to have encountered your work. I would like to have “faith . . .” to hang in my home as a tribute to Ann Eliza and as a reminder that we can get through anything that may come our way if we have faith. 


Kenneth Oliver

Poland, Maine


Be the first to post a comment.

Previously published:

All 2,397 blog entries

Photography by David Lee Black Studios. All images copyrighted.