12 October 2010

Contemporary Photographer: JR

"JR is a young French photographer who has become a hero to many people who encounter his work. He doesn’t use his real name, because most of the work he does is illegal.  
JR makes provocative black-and-white photos, and enlarges them into very large billboard size prints. Then, with a friend or two, under cover of the night, he illegally pastes these photos onto large walls in very public urban spaces.
His illegal work has been celebrated by several outlets of mainstream media, and he has been granted official, authorized exhibitions of his photographs in prominent places in Paris and Amsterdam in recent years."

(Extract from Lens Culture website)

'28 millimetres' Project
"Armed with a 28 mm lens, JR shot full frame portraits of young people from this neighbourhood (in France) and the nearby district of The Forestière. This no frills, straightforward technique allowed them (JR and friend, Ladj Ly) to get very close to this generation. 
Interviewing them, without restrictions, on the recent events of November 2005.  The first portraits were illegally pasted on the east walls of Paris, a district that was once run-down, but has now become a residency for the bourgeois bohemian, who are shielded from the flames.  
With a certain 'in your face' rudeness, they provoke passers-by and question the social and media representation of a generation that people only want to see outside the doors of Paris or on the news."  
(Extract from '28 millimetres' website)


'Face2Face' Project

"When we (JR and friend) met in 2005, we decided to go together in the Middle-East to figure out why Palestinians and Israelis couldn't find a way to get along together.  We then traveled across the Israeli and Palestinian cities without speaking much. Just looking to this world with amazement.  This holy place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  This tiny area where you can see mountains, sea, deserts and lakes, love and hate, hope and despair embedded together.  After a week, we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families.  ... It's obvious, but they don't see that.  We must put them face to face. ...
The Face2Face project is to make portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and to post them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.  ... We hope that this project will contribute to a better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.  
Today, "Face to face" is necessary.  
Within a few years, we will come back for "Hand in hand"."
(Extract from 'Face2Face' website)

 Original images...
...and after being put on public exhibition.

I find JR's work inspiring and original.  He has found a way to get his message across to the public without having to go through the restricting channels of the media and press.  I do find it quite amazing that he is able to put up these billboard sized images without raising any serious amount of suspicion.

Personally, I think it takes a lot of guts to put your work out there where it will make a major statement and is also open to all sorts of criticism from a large broad audience.  In one way, as a photographer, you are making a statement which, usually, means a lot to you so you will go to extraordinary lengths to get your message out there.  Yet, in doing so, you are also opening yourself up to a wide range of criticism.  Your work becomes open to the public which is full of all sorts of different generations, cultural and social backgrounds and could generate a variety of responses.  But, I guess, it is just the sort of risk that you would weigh when wanting to make these sort of decisions...

Artist's website: http://jr-art.net/
First image and 'Face2Face' project images from:
'28 millimetres' project images and website: http://www.28millimetres.com/index_en.html
'Face2Face' project website: http://www.face2faceproject.com/
JR on Lens Culture website: http://www.lensculture.com/jr.html

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