1. JR wears his signature hat and dark glasses, partly to assist in the shift of emphasis from him to the art and the questions it raises, as well as to hide his identity from the authorities. "I’ve been arrested in a lot of countries. The day that art is welcomed the same way everywhere, I guess I wouldn’t need this," he has said, referring to his hat and shades. "You know, it’s kind of annoying to wear sunglasses all day."
2. Growing up on the outskirts of Paris, JR started out by tagging his name on walls in the local area before he found an abandoned film camera while waiting for a train. He began using the camera to document friends and other graffiti artists on rooftops, in tunnels and other precarious, forbidden parts of the city. . At seventeen, he started printing these photographs in black and white, and pasting them all around the city. He even spray painted brightly coloured frames around the photographs, creating street exhibitions called Expo 2 Rue or Sidewalk Galleries. “For me it’s really clear,” he says. “I was writing my names on walls to say ‘I exist,’ then I started pasting pictures of people with their names to say they exist.”
3. The artist is also a writer and director, having created several films related to his art projects such as: Women Are Heroes (2010), Ellis (2015) and Faces, Places (2017). Faces, Places was made in collaboration with the late filmmaker Agnès Varda, to great acclaim. The film won the 'Golden Eye' for best documentary film at the Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.
4. In 2011 the artist won the TED Prize that came with a $100,000 grant which he used to launch his Inside Out project. The project invited people to become part of an art piece, having their pictures taken by JR and his team or sending their own portraits to him to print. Inside Out has now taken on a life of its own and is likely the world's largest participatory art project, with over 200,000 participants in more than 130 countries worldwide.
5. More than the photo, what fascinates JR are the artistic process and people’s involvement. A collective adventure, each of his projects calls for audience participation, where people play a vital role not just as spectators but also become the subjects and the actors who choose how much impact the photo installation will have. “The concept of ownership runs through most of my projects,” JR notes. “It’s people creating an art project and expressing themselves in their communities at a global scale. Once the work is done, it belongs to the people and environment. People are free to tear it down or not. Inside Out Tunisia is a perfect example of freedom of expression in my work. The locals tore down the posters, tasting democracy for the first time in a long time. Inside Out has helped hundreds of thousands of people across the world make statements with their faces.”
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