Good Bones

©Chris Hytha

A lover of Pennsylvania’s historic row houses since he was a kid, Chris Hytha began photographing them in 2021, the summer after he graduated from architecture school, as he biked the streets of Philadelphia. He was particularly fascinated by “broken motifs”—row houses that had been designed as pairs or triplets but that now stood solo.

Hytha set out to make a series of 100 row house works, eventually collected into the book “Rowhomes,” each of which is a photo composite edited to accentuate the distinctive details of the home and add a surreal, Wes Anderson-esque flare. The images aren’t meant to be photojournalistic. “This is by no means a documentation project,” he says. “It’s more of an artistic approach, trying to translate how I’m seeing the world—and what I’m seeing are these homes with incredible character, each one different from that last.”

In his editing process, he made choices about what to keep, what to cut, and what to add to each composition. He might replace the background of the home with a different scene or remove distracting power lines, cones, traffic lights, or cars that he felt would date his work. In an act of “world building,” he says, he might composite in a visually interesting car he’d photographed elsewhere that he felt matched the character or energy of the home or sample a hue from the house—for example, green or purple—and make that the color of the sky.

What’s most satisfying about the project is being able to relate his perspective, he says—his awe and admiration for these 100-plus-year-old Victorian beauties. Not many people bike the streets of north and west Philadelphia to tour these gems, he says. “I hope people see the positivity and the potential and the good bones of these old structures.”   

Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.