This year’s TED conference winner has created a global pervasive photography project that seeks to redraw the boundaries between fine art and street art. JR, a Parisian photographer, has become famous for his large-scale photo installations in which he pastes and drapes the faces of urban dwellers in various strife-ridden geographic locations.
He has been creating this type of art since 2003, but his first project to gain substantial notoriety was “Portrait of a Generation” in 2006 when he photographed the “thugs” of the banlieues (the low-income Parisian suburbs) and papered middle-class, bourgeois neighborhoods with these images. This attempt to traverse the barriers between race, class and geographic location would become typical of JR.
Since then, he has installed projects in Isreal and Palestine, Africa and Brazil, where no surface off-limits: walls, bridges, the roofs of the Kenyan slums, stairways, and the sides of houses in the favelas (Brazilian shanty towns).
JR prefers to remains anonymous, does not sign his work, and provides no formal explanation of them. In this way, he allows the viewer to have the maximum flexibility to interpret the images as they wish.
The project for which he won the TED prize, “Inside Out” describes itself as:
a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Upload a portrait. Receive a poster. Paste it for the world to see.
For an excellent overview of JR’s legacy and some additional insights into the mind of the artist, watch the video below.