|The Door (1997)|
East Baltimore poet and photographer t.p. Luce’s 2004 thaBloc book is sort of like Baltimore’s version of the 2002 movie City of God: photos of kids in their early teens or younger showing off their guns and sexiest poses (Arts & Entertainment, Dec. 22, 2004). The images are shocking because the kids are growing up too fast, too violent, and too poor, but made more complex, if not more palatable, by Luce’s accompanying Gil Scott-Heron-style poetry.
Now Luce—the pen name of Ellis Marsalis III, brother to Wynton and Branford, son of Ellis Jr.—has selected a handful of the images from thaBloc to display at spoken-word poetry ingénue Jacqui Cummings’s soul café, Notre Maison. The exhibition focuses on portraiture, not street politics, and showcases Luce’s talent for spotting captivating faces and making delicate, intimate images out of them.
In his Belair-Edison neighborhood he saw faces like the ones in “Horsing Around on the Deck” (1997), which shows a shirtless boy of about 4 or 5 years, showing off for the camera on his front porch with one of his buddies. The laughter in both faces is unmistakable, but what gives the shot weight is that both boys are wearing shabby old-fashioned leather roller skates that the boys have clearly made a day of fun out of.