JR is a French photographer with the largest art gallery in the world: the streets! His identity has been kept covert for a reason, as he is well known for breaking boundaries. JR uses a well-known marketing tactic of flyposting, which consist of placing posters in legal and illegal places. The purpose for this is to attract those who don’t frequent museums, making his art available to all walks of life. In order for his massive black and white pictures to be put up, requires a mix of art and action.
His movement began the day he found a camera in a Paris train station, and started photographing people with a message. This idea slowly evolved as he started to expose important issues through his work. One of the most revolutionary of his projects was definitely ‘Face2Face’. JR is known for photographing intimate portraits of people, however this particular project was a step further into his artistic ambition. ‘Face2Face’ consisted of vast portraits of Israelis and Palestinians of the same profession stuck side by side. Its controversy is what made this attempt so effective.
Another of his successful and most practical projects was ‘Women are Heroes’, a paste up of portraits of local women in Kenya. Even though art in itself is enough, JR did not just stop there. These posters covered hundreds of rooftops, which not only made the bird eye view of Kibera – the Kenyan city – a beautiful one, it also improved the locals living situation as the posters acted as barriers from the rain and shade from the sun.
Among his many projects was one that struck the masses and led to JR winning the annual TED prize wish in 2011: ‘Inside Out Project’. This installation was a collaborative one as the co-creators were each assigned their own city to put up the posters. Here the artist did what he does best as he turned peoples personal stories into one big global black and white art exhibition. This ongoing project has most recently reached New York this summer, May 10, 2013.
JR’s artistic goal was summed up by his TED prize wish, which stated: ‘I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world inside out’.
– Nauf Al Saif