I didn’t know her well, but I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for her work and her depth of passion for photography, and specifically her teaching of photography and Interlochen and her photography of the former Traverse City State Hospital. I don’t know what role (if any) her work played in the rebirth of the former mental institution as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, but I do know that it did awaken the community to what an architectural and natural treasure it was.
On her web site, heidijohnson.com she wrote:
about the book Angels in the Architecture
I have been fascinated by the history of rural America for years and specifically with the history of the former Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City Michigan (also called The Northern Michigan Asylum until 1911.) Based upon childhood memories of having an Aunt institutionalized there from the 1950’s – 1970’s to the belief that I was meant to tell this story lead me to embark upon a three year immersion into the early history of the facility as well as special permission to photograph inside the various structures (primarily Building 50) from 1997 -1998. This body of work evolved into a book which was published by Wayne State University Press in 2001 entitled Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum
You can view an amazing gallery of Heidi Johnson’s photography through her site and learn more about the Traverse City State Hospital from Kirkbride Buildings.