Playing Solitaire

“629 N. Mount Street, Baltimore, MD” and “Camden, NJ” by Ben Marcin.
“629 N. Mount Street, Baltimore, MD” and “Camden, NJ” by Ben Marcin.

We’ve all seen one at some point: a lone rowhome in a now-vacant lot, resistant to the forces that demolished its neighbors. These houses, whether monuments to socio-economic devastation or the will to survive (or both), are the subjects of artist Ben Marcin’s “Last House Standing” photography series.
“My intention was to present simultaneous strands of despair and defiance throughout these photo essays,” says Marcin. “Many of the solo rowhouses started to appear in the decades following the 1968 riots. Neighborhoods that had been vital for decades underwent massive upheavals and began to die a slow death. Unfortunately, [with the current unrest] I expect to encounter ‘new’ solo rowhouses as time passes.”
When asked about the conspicuous absence of the homes’ occupants in the photos, Marcin says “there was never any question about not including the residents in the pictures—it would have changed the tenor of the work completely.” But still, a glimmer of humanity is sometimes visible in the crooked blinds of a second-story window or in a child’s backyard playhouse. In other photos, the occupants have long since vacated the premises, leaving only boarded-up doorways, crumbling stoops and scattered debris. In either case, the spirit of the series remains the same: “They are carefully composed odes to solitary objects,” says Marcin, who has also documented temporary shelters created by homeless people in a sister series called “The Camps.”

> See images from “Last House Standing” at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s new “Imagining Home” exhibition, which runs through summer 2018. Images from “The Camps” will be on display through Jan. 16, 2016, as part of “Within/Without,” a group show at C. Grimaldis Gallery.

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