In the northeast corner of Philadelphia, an abandoned penitentiary shelters a terrible past. For more than a century, the Holmesburg Prison housed convicts in long, thin cellblocks, with as many as five inmates occupying a single six-by-eight foot cell.
Thomas Roma/powerHouse Books
Cell D408 of Holmesburg Prison
Before it was shut down a decade ago, Holmesburg was notorious for the experiments carried out on prisoners over a 25-year period. Inmates sometimes earned extra money by volunteering to test everything from skin creams to LSD.
Those abandoned cells attracted Thomas Roma, a well-known artist and director of photography at Columbia University School of the Arts. His new book of photos of some of those now-dilapidated cells, In Prison Air: The Cells of Holmesburg Prison, evokes the hopes of the former inmates amid a hopeless situation.