Room 221 of the Fine Arts building is small. Dozens of students waited in the dark, over-crowded classroom; some covered in sweat from the room’s high temperature. While half of the students eyes were glued to their phones and Instagram timelines, others waited with their pens and notebooks ready to learn how the esteemed photographer, Ben Marcin, became so “esteemed.”
A little after the scheduled time, the audience of art lovers and students in need of extra credit applauded Marcin before he gave his spiel. Ben Marcin was born in Augsburg, Germany. Although Marcin’s family relocated to the United States shortly after his birth, he maintained an understanding of the world abroad with his photographs. From having work exhibited in museums in San Francisco to different magazines in Europe, Marcin has made to sure reach audiences from all backgrounds and ethnicities with his variation in concepts, mediums and skill.
Although Marcin’s photographs are famous worldwide, he hasn’t always been a part of the “art world.” Marcin, a former UMBC economics student, didn’t expect to ever become a photographer. After graduating from UMBC at 21, Marcin worked a few different odd jobs such as truck-driving, serving customers in a deli and working for the Department of Social Security for some time.
It wasn’t until Marcin was 27 that he began to nurse interest in photography. After purchasing a Minolta X-370 camera in the 1980s, his artistic journey began. His early works revolved around different obscure regions of the greater Baltimore area. Marcin used different styles of angle shooting and focuses to capture different images, most being scenic shots. Since Marcin was new to photography, it took him some time to get the hang of things.
“I was self-taught. Everything was completely trial and error. I grew bored with Baltimore so I decided to start traveling.
While flipping through some old photos during his presentation, he touched on some of his most interesting excursions in countries such as Mexico, India and Morocco. Marcin explained how the variation between the regions helped him progress not only as a photographer, but as an artist. From changes in camera lenses to changes in photo angles, Marcin made sure to improve his work regularly, and even built relationships with the locals.
“One of my favorite places to visit was definitely Honduras,” said Marcin. “If you go anywhere, go to Honduras.”
Marcin’s work covers a broad range of topics. Currently, Marcin has received a large sum of recognition from his projects “The Last House Standing” and “The Camps.” “The Last House Standing” represents several different single-family Baltimore homes that were once conjoined rows of houses, but foreclosures caused the others to be bulldozed. On the other hand, “The Camps” shows different homes built by various homeless people throughout the Baltimore area. These houses are made out of peculiar objects, however, such as crates, doors, and on the more standard end, tiles.
Although these works were some of his most recognized, Marcin has snapped an array of other abstract shots. Some of his other projects include series of boats discarded in the woods, different shots of parking garages throughout the city and even a photo collection of chewing-gum found on the side of the road.
Being an artist, Marcin stands on the shoulders of giants. Some artists who have been most influential to Marcin are Jean Dubuffet, Jackson Pollock and Emil Node.
“Jean is one of my favorites,” said Marcin. “A lot of these artists influenced my color infrared period as well. I used color infrared for four years.”
When Marcin isn’t working or studying some works from his favorites, he’s probably inspiring fellow UMBC photographers and artists. Josh Sinn, who’s perusing a master of arts in teaching, has always followed Marcin.
“I’ve been following Ben [Marcin’s] work for a number of years,” said Sinn. “[His] landscape photos are some of my favorites, and it even influences my photography, especially his ‘Last House Standing’ shots.”
Hevin Wright, a junior graphic design major, also appreciates Marcin’s work. Marcin’s work that most stood out to Wright most was his project, “The Camp.”
“Just seeing that homeless people are living behind million dollar casinos is a problem,” said Wright. “The images were sad, but sadly it’s the truth, and Marcin made sure to capture these images well.”