Still Standing

Ben Marcin's free standing rowhouse photo

Cruise down any avenue in Baltimore and you will inevitably run across a scene like the one above. These solitary townhomes are sometimes all that remain of formerly vibrant neighborhoods. According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 one in nine housing units in Baltimore lay vacant. The city has aggressively razed abandoned properties to remove fire and health hazards, but the result is a street that looks empty and forgotten.

The row house is an unlikely Baltimore icon. It’s been depicted on everything from local beer labels to crafty painted window screens, and even abstracted into the background of indie band stage shows. Every house I lived in over the past 11 years was a row home. The icon is engrained into the psyche of nearly every Baltimorean, so it’s no wonder that Ben Marcin began photographing the city’s stand-alone buildings. What sets his photo series apart is his ability to speak about the idiosyncrasies of our city and its social and political climate. Every photograph in the series shares the same composition: one row house, front and center. In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Marcin discusses what compelled him to photograph these scenes. For me, the series is a reminder that you can use one very small thing to describe one very big problem.