JR On Why He Considers Himself a “Photograffeur”

16 Feb

jr-in-kenya

The Times has an insightful interview with Parisian street artist / photo artist, JR. Fresh from his community photo art project in Kibera, Kenya (where he covered 2000 square meters of slum rooftops with photos of the eyes and faces of women from the region), JR has become “the hippest street artist since Banksy” and has attracted the attention of serious dealers and auctioneers like Sotheby’s. In the article (by Ed Caesar), JR discusses the nature of his art and how he hopes to impact the people that look at it.

JR is a 25-year-old Parisian of mixed race (he has Tunisian and eastern European blood), from a middle-class background. He never reveals his full name because it “would add nothing”. In his teens, he “tagged” as a graffiti artist, but only started taking photographs when he found a camera on the Paris Métro as a 17-year-old. He is now, in his own words, a hybrid “photograffeur”, who pastes enormous black-and-white photographic canvases in various urban environments.

In a post-crash world, JR sells no diamond skulls. His engagement and edification of the world’s poorest is not only laudable, but artistically interesting. Indeed, the trade in his pictures — created in Third World slums, bought by affluent westerners, reinvested in the slums — makes him a Robin Hood figure. Moreover, because of the size and situation of his images, JR competes with the billboard ads of Coca-Cola and Levi for attention. This is not merely a by-product of his work, but a theme.

“People don’t really understand why I paste, when I’m not selling something,” he says. But of course he knows exactly what his brand is: people.

Read the full article here.

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