| P E O P L E |
Artist | Paris
MEET THE INSPIRING FRENCH STREET ARTIST, JR, WHO HAS BEEN TOUCHING THE LIVES OF PEOPLE IN ALL CORNERS OF THE WORLD WITH HIS COLOSSAL, EYE-POPPING BLACK AND WHITE STREET ART PORTRAITS.
Can art change the world? By the time the semi-anonymous artist known as "JR" asked this question to the audience at a TED Talk in 2011, he had already been changing urban landscapes around the world for over a decade. As a young graffiti artist in his hometown of Paris, JR found a camera on the local metro one day. He started pasting his photographs on posters around the city – which he termed his “Sidewalk Galleries” – and found a form of expression that would touch the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest and most conflicted areas over the coming decade.
When the outskirts of Paris experienced an outburst of riots in 2005, JR captured intimate and up-close portraits of local residents with his 28mm fisheye camera, who were encouraged to pull faces for the camera. Before long, these images were pasted onto the walls of the city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. He had connected two communities by using the city as a canvas, and he’s been doing it around the world ever since. In 2007, he created the largest illegal photography exhibition in the world by posting large-scale portraits of Israelis and Palestinians side by side on the wall that separates both territories. His project, “The Wrinkles of The City” saw intimate portraits of elderly local residents splashed across building walls from Los Angeles to Havana and Shanghai. His project, “Women are Heroes” drew JR to Kenya and Providencia – one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous favelas – where he worked with the local community to cover houses, walls and staircases with the portraits of local women. When media interest started to grow, JR quietly disappeared, forcing the city’s journalists to open up a dialogue with these previously shunned communities.
In one of his latest projects, “Inside Out”, the self-titled photograffeur encourages participants around the world to send him a photograph. Printed in large scale, he then returns a poster of their snapshot along with the invitation to paste it wherever they choose. Can art change the world? Armed with a camera, paper and glue, JR is encouraging us to try.
Photography: Courtesy of Gallerie Perrotin
Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue Two - Purchase Now
M O R E I N T E R V I E W S . . .