Portland’s Metamorphosis, One Picture at a Time

Mark Marchesi, who recently published the third book of his Greater Portland series, has been photographing the region for nearly two decades.

Oakhurst Dairy on Forest Avenue.

When Mark Marchesi studied photography at Maine College of Art, he focused on portraits of people. But on a series of extended road trips around the United States, Canada, and Mexico after college, he found himself taking portraits of buildings instead. He continued the practice when he returned to Portland in 2005 and has been documenting the area’s changing architectural landscape ever since. In the third volume of his Greater Portland series, published at the end of 2021, Marchesi captures how quickly Maine’s largest city has evolved in recent years. Some parts of the city documented in the book, which includes 48 carefully composed film photographs and 112 mobile phone photos taken between 2018 and last year, have already changed, including an under-construction condo in the city’s East End that is now complete and the B&M Baked Beans factory, which shut down production last year and had its smokestack removed. Most of the buildings Marchesi captures with his Linhof 4×5 field camera aren’t as iconic, but they provide the city its character, particularly when contrasted with new development. The former site of Joe’s Smoke Shop, which was torn down in 2015 and replaced with a condo building, is an example of that, Marchesi says. “It’s not a masterpiece of architecture, but it’s Portland,” he says. “It was something that defined the city. What went up in its place is one of these sort of homogenized complexes that could be the same as anywhere in the country.”

The Portland Food Co-op on Congress Street and a new condo building behind it.

U-Haul Moving and Storage on Marginal Way.

The corner of Fox and Hammond Streets in East Bayside, with a condo building under construction in the frame.

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