2000 sq. meters of new roofs are covered with huge photographic art, Women are Heroes, Kibera, Kenya, January 2009 (www.jr-art.net).

Grafitti writer turned photographer JR is world renowned for posting large scale images of everyday people in some of the most unlikely places. His work has appeared on the walls of his home city Paris, in various locations in Brazilian favelas, on trains, hillsides and on the rooftops of shantytown homes in Kenya, on building facades and walls in Palestine and Israel. India, Shanghai, New York.

Late last year, he was awarded a $100,000 TED prize for his innovations in art. Winners also get to make a “wish.” JR’s wish is to involve and inspire others to use his postering technique to make art that can also impact society. It’s called the INSIDE OUT: A Global Art Project and anyone interested can upload their own images and he’ll mail you back a large-scale poster ready to be pasted any where in any local community. He’s trying to kickstart a visual revolution, if you may.

In the following TED conference talk, JR explains not only his career trajectory but also how his perception of art’s power evolved and expanded with every project he completed. It’s pretty riveting stuff.

Dude has made his mark by celebrating humanity in places where humanity has assumed to be lost, turning what it means to seem faceless on its head.

His 28 Millimetres project started with a series of photos titled Portrait of a Generation. It was a reaction to ill media coverage of the 2004 Paris riots. He took extreme close-ups of a several young people of color involved in the rebellion, had them use exaggerated facial expressions to critique the distorted image that the media had created, and then posted the images all over downtown Paris.

Another phase was the Face 2 Face project where he shot more close-up images of Israelis and Palestinians who had similar jobs–taxi drivers, school teachers, shop keepers–and placed them side by side, one image of an Israeli next to one of a Palestinian, and dared passers-by to guess who was who.

Women Are Heroes is another project in which JR photographed women in Kibera slums and posted their images on the rooftops, as a sort of homage to the women who are the backbone of the community. He focused on the women in Morro de Providencia favela in Brazil, India, and Cambodia as well.

He explains it all and more here.


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