Cambridge State Hospital : Bliss symbols

Sink and cupboards, Cottage 6.

Sink and cupboards, Cottage 6.

The buildings of the Cambridge State Hospital had a few remnants of signage that I had never seen before. I heard them referred to as "Bliss symbols".  My understanding was that the symbols were used as an additional way of communicating with clients who couldn't read. I most often saw them labeling sinks and bathrooms and other commonly used spaces.

I just recently heard an episode of WNYC's Radiolab that contained a segment about these symbols created by Charles Bliss.  There is a much more complicated story behind them than I expected and they were created with much grander ambitions in mind.  I thought it was a pretty interesting story.

The Radiolab segment is located at .  The segment about Charles Bliss begins at about 5:30 into the stream on the page.

Cambridge State Hospital book


The Cambridge State Hospital book is finished and printed! Due to the high cost of quality on-demand printing, I was only able to print eight copies in total.

Thank you so much to all the friends and family who assisted me in finishing this massive project.  Special thanks to Peter Lochner for the beautiful design work.  Thank you also to the Minnesota State Arts Board's Artist Initiative grant which made this project possible.




Kent Anderson is a fiscal year 2010 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.


Minnesota State Arts Board grant


In March of 2011, I was awarded an Artist's Initiative Grant by the Minnesota State Arts Board to complete a photographic book of the Cambridge State Hospital series.  I have been working since then to digitize a large number of the 4x5 negatives, correct the scanned photographs, and then attempt to edit the series into a cohesive body of work.  I am currently looking into on-demand printing services and hope to have things ready to do a test pressing within the next 4-6 weeks. 

I will also be upgrading the website to reflect the new, improved images I've been working on, such as this one.

"Photos & Drawings" trailer

 Minneapolis filmmaker Jon Thomas has just uploaded a trailer for his short film "Photos & Drawings" on Vimeo.  I shot a series of portraits for the film, which are featured prominently throughout. The film looks absolutely beautiful, as you can see from the film still I've included above. I'm excited to finally be able to see the whole thing.  Click on the photo to have a look.

You can also go to to learn more about the film.

A wedding in Duluth


I just got done shooting a lovely wedding up in Duluth, Minnesota.  The couple got married in the Sacred Heart Music Center, an old Catholic cathedral that has been converted into a nonprofit music space.  We took some of the portraits further up the hill, near Enger Tower.  These are a few highlights.