When Lynn Casper noticed her first photography subject, laying torn and mangled under a chain-link fence in Madison, Wisconsin, she couldn’t explain the magnetic pull. All she knew was that she had to get out her camera.
“I pointed it out to my co-worker, and all she could say was ‘so what?’” Casper remembers. “But I just had to capture it. To me, it was amazing.”
The fascination grew as Casper began to notice broken umbrellas all over the place. They were upturned in trash cans, fluttering in the street as cars whizzed by, and even dangling from tree branches. There was a irresistible story in the discarded items, previously used to shield people from adverse weather. Once they had broken a bone or suffered a tear, they were deemed useless. Most of the umbrellas Casper found weren’t even thrown away—just thrown. She kept clicking away, and within a month she had built an impressive album entitled “Unfortunate Umbrellas.”’
As the social media consultant at Working Films, Casper knew that the destroyed head guardians would get an appreciative audience on Facebook. Sure enough, after she posted them on her page, the photos began to garner some attention.
“They got a lot of comments,” she says. “People wanted to tell me about umbrellas they had seen lying around, and a lot of people started sending in photos of their own.”
Most of the pictures were taken with Casper’s phone, which is impressive given the quality of each frame. “That’s the nature of this project,” she says. “It’s spontaneous. I have to be ready the moment I spot one. or else it could blow away before I get a chance to capture it.”
Despite the rush, each umbrella receives its due moment of recognition. The light hits each subject perfectly to produce the maximum mixture of tragedy and beauty. The most poignant of the photos showcase rainy days, when the wet pavement reflects back into the umbrella’s glory days of providing protection from a storm. Under each picture, a thoughtful caption resides, with either a location or a back story that Casper made up on the spot.
The first model from Wisconsin reads “injured on-site in a construction job.” Another one from a Target parking lot says “trampled in shopping spree chaos.” One touching photo of a “survivor” showcases a lucky red umbrella whose owner was thoughtful enough to place it back in its protective sleeve before leaving it in the grass near 5th and Wooster streets.
The online album contains 40 photos, but Casper promises there are plenty that haven’t been uploaded and many more to come. With her frequent trips to New York City, which she calls “a graveyard for umbrellas,” and her watchful eye around Wilmington, she determines to keep clicking, and making the project into something bigger—a photo book or an art show at Projekte.
“I was thinking about getting a bunch of people to submit stories for each umbrella, [too,]” Casper says. “They could be displayed under the prints at the art show for people to read.”
She welcomes submissions from anyone interested, and she’s easily traceable on Facebook. “I’m really hoping to get these seen by more people,” she notes. “There is something about the umbrellas that makes me stop and stare at them. I think a lot of people feel that way, too. If nothing else, they will definitely start noticing unfortunate umbrellas whenever they leave the house. They are everywhere.”