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JR: Portrait Of A Generation

Starting at the age of fiften, French artist JR began tagging city buildings and tunnels with his initials. He soon moved to photography after finding a camera in the metro. Initially pasting small photographs to create “sidewalk galleries,” he eventually evolved to the large scale portrait he is known for today.

Portrait of a Generation, 28 MM

 During riots in 2005, a large portrait of local youths (above) posted in a suburban project of Paris became widely publicized after it appeared in a news broadcast behind a burning car. JR returned to this community asking locals to pose as caricatures of themselves as portrayed by the media. These portraits (posted with the names, ages, and building numbers of each subject) were posted throughout urban Paris, bringing attention to the issues of this disgruntled community and others like it by bridging the gap between the media and the subjects. This launched JR’s 32 millimeter project. 

Portrait of a Generation

Portrait of a Generation

He then took this project around the globe. He photographed Israelis and Palestinians with the same occupations and posted their portraits side by side within both communities (Face 2 Face). He then photographed everyday female heroes in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya, and Brazil (Women are Heroes).

Separation Wall, Face 2 Face, 28 MM

Women Are Heroes– Africa, 28 MM

Women Are Heroes– Brazil, 28 MM

 Although his work is often temporary, usually just paper and glue, the images are powerful, beautiful, and thought provoking: “The photo is like paper, it’s ephemeral, it goes with time, but it always stays an image in your head” (JR).

One of the things that make his portraits so special is that he often shoots incredibly close to most of his subjects, usually with the lens (a 28 or 32 millimeter) only a few inches from their faces. Because of this he if forced to develop a level of trust with his subjects before he can shoot them. In doing so, he creates meaningful friendships, and his subjects become comfortable enough to allow him to capture authentic, heartfelt portraits.

Winning the annual TED prize in 2011, JR was given $100,000 to further his wish to change the world: to use art to “turn the world inside out.”

TED 2011 TALK – ENGLISH SUBTITLES from SOCIAL ANIMALS on Vimeo.

His most recent endeavour, Inside Out Project, encourages participants across the globe to share photo portraits that can be used to tell stories of their communities. Mission statements cover a diverse range of topics (support for teachers, resilience of Haitians, and monastic life to share a few), with over 100,000 portraits submitted from over 100 countries. Maybe the next Inside Out Project participant will be from the Queen’s community. Wanna get involved? Click here.

All photographs are from JR’s site.

Yours Creatively,

Ali Candib

Note: Muse Magazine Online would like to welcome our newest Arts blogger, Ali Candib We look forward to more posts from Ali.