A Slice of America’s Mansions Is Being Saved

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You are not deceived by your eyes. These houses have been sliced in half like a buttercream cake, but instead of confetti sprinkles, the insides reveal water damage, rot, and all that is wrong with our throw-away society. It’s both the greatest success and the worst tragedy of America’s 100-year-old homes: when they hit rock bottom, they hit rock bottom hard, and finding a savior is seldom simple. That’s why finding Austin Hodges, a photographer who captures them via his lens, is the next best thing. We chatted with the artist about his mission to photograph these decaying queens.

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Austin, like the rest of the country, once had an American dream.”I always wanted to be an actor as a kid,”he adds, “but because of my stutter, it never came to me, and I just outgrew that concept”” If anything, it was evident that his senses were fine-tuned to detail, and he began to explore his city more after attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Austin continues to travel up and down the East Coast in pursuit of a long-lost paradise…

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“All I do is wander around different neighborhoods and see what I can discover” he continues, “since I got fascinated by what abandoned places looked like inside.” Various neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey are represented in this set of homes. Austin doesn’t consider his job risky and claims that the key to his photos’strange, white lighting (aspiring photographers, take heed) is to photograph buildings on a foggy day. “Shadows (are) my enemy,” he says,”because they obscure the perspective of the house and provide far too much contrast. “However,”the daylight comes in handy while investigating within abandoned structures”

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The houses Austin finds have some consistency, despite being at the whim of chaos and abandonment; if they aren’t spliced, they are typically divided into many pieces. As a result, a series of buildings appear, some fraternal and decrepit twins with vines growing out of their gaps—nature’s response to humankind’s carelessness…

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Others, known as stand-alones, turn into suburban islands. Austin claims that these lone ghosts are his favorites.

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Austin’s creative mindset is admirable, as he expects nothing except personal pleasure from his work.”I don’t think I could ever make photography a job”he adds, “because I’d lose interest in the joy of shooting pictures”My current employment is my ideal job. working as a maintenance guy at Whole Foods [in West Philadelphia].”

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That’s all there is to it. Go high-five Austin at Whole Foods if you’re ever in need of groceries or creative inspiration in West Philly, and read more about his work on his website and Instagram. You may also buy any of his prints by letting him know which one you want.


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