Baltimore artist Trevon Jackson honors city's victims of homicide through portraits

The artist lost his own cousin to violence and honors him to this day.

January 16, 2020, 4:41 PM

Scrolling through Trevon Jackon's Instagram feed, you may notice his custom 3D-printed portraits. Each is handmade, colorful and customized for special occasions. But there is one key detail that stands out on about 80% of his work: the person in the portrait has angel wings.

Jackson, 26, uses a 3D printer to create "long-live posters" for the victims of homicides in Baltimore. The born and raised West Baltimore native said his requests for a portrait typically come from a family member or friend who just lost a loved one to gun violence.

The city had a total of 348 victims in 2019 -- the highest homicide rate per capita in the United States. Over the last year, Jackson has personally created over 230 posters for victims who were killed.

"Most of my work are victims of homicides or people who have just passed away period," Jackson told ABC News. "In this city, sometimes it feels like there is no way out of here but death."

Although he loves the process and it brings him joy seeing the happiness his murals bring to families, he fears for his own safety every day.

"I'm literally staring right now at downtown Baltimore and I look at it every day and think, 'Is there any way I can make it out of here?'" said Jackson. "I work and I am trying to get my family away from here, but it definitely feels like there is no way out, like there is no other option, you can only go but so far here."

PHOTO: A seal of the Baltimore Police Department is seen at Police Headquarters in Baltimore, Aug. 8, 2017.
A seal of the Baltimore Police Department is seen at Police Headquarters in Baltimore, Aug. 8, 2017.
Afp Contributor/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The city's highest number of homicides was in 1993, when 353 people were killed and the city had 100,000 more residents than it does now.

Jackson got his start creating posters at the age of 16 when his grandmother passed away. The poster in memory of his late grandmother received so much praised that Jackson bought a 2003 3D printer and started to produce posters independently. But in 2017, his work came to a halt when his cousin -- who he said was more like a brother -- got shot 11 times at a pool party and died.

"He was with me the day I bought the printer and was so excited for me," said Jackson. "And a few hours later, that same day, he got gunned down."

Jackson said it was at that moment that he knew how it felt to be the person receiving a long-live poster. Once again, the poster he created for his cousin's remembrance brought so much joy to the people suffering loss, it pushed Jackson to keep going for his cousin. And it paid off.

Even with over 34,000 Instagram followers, praise from celebrities like rapper Meek Mill and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, and a steady source of income, Jackson still uses the same printer he bought with his cousin to honor hundreds of Baltimore natives.

PHOTO: Trevon Jackson, 26, West Baltimore Native  is seen here and creates custom 3D printed portraits honoring victims of homicides.
Trevon Jackson, 26, West Baltimore Native is seen here and creates custom 3D printed portraits honoring victims of homicides.
Trevon Jackson

"I will never switch up, I'm not in this for no money; sometimes people don't even know, I might see someone who just lost their kid and I'll send them a DM saying, 'Hey come pick up this poster I made for you,'" said Jackson. "For no money at all, I just want to give them something that will make them happy because that makes me happy seeing their smiles. I love what I do."

The Baltimore Sun's homicides data page indicates that the last time the city had less than 300 homicide victims in one year was in 2014. Just 15 days into 2020 there have already been 15 homicides.

"I question myself a lot -- especially right now [when] I'm dealing with the public. I don't have a store and it's definitely not a good feeling; I feel like no one wants to see anyone win," said Jackson. "But I don't fear nothing. If someone really wanted to do something to me, they can, but when my brother died and I pulled myself out of that dark place, I told myself I will never go back to that place again and I never looked back."

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