Monday, February 28, 2011

French 'Photograffeur' JR

Big Fisher is Watching You
(Image from New York Times)

Literary critic Gaby Wood writes in "Supercolossal Street Art" (February 24, 2011) for the New York Times Magazine of the street-art photographer "JR," a Parisan artist who posts enormous photographs on buildings, wall, embankments, rooftops, wherever a surface sufficiently flat enough presents itself and opportunity accords. He has an interesting method of operations for carrying out his artistic concepts:
His M.O. is to show up in a shantytown in Kenya or a favela in Brazil, a place where some event has been noted in the media and captured his attention, and turn it inside out, photographing the residents, then wrapping their buildings with the results, on a scale so vast that you can see their eyes from the sky. Often he has worked at night, and as soon as he's done, he disappears; so when the installation becomes front-page news, there is no one left to explain it but the people whose voices had not been previously heard.
I can appreciate what JR's out to do -- give voice to the voiceless and all that -- but he runs the risk of treating his subject matter superficially, as his persona might suggest:
JR's style is a little bit Belmondo, a little bit Buddy Holly -- the glasses are Perspex -- and he speaks in the enthusiastic slang of a hip, young Parisian. "C'├ętait ouf!" is how he often describes some exciting or exceptional event -- the punched-in-the-gut exhalation of that last word standing in for anything more precise. "Nickel," short for "nickel-chrome," is applied liberally to mean "great."
But perhaps his aesthetic vision alone suffices. Check out the slide show for the man and some of his art works. Speaking of the man, here's a photo of JR, shot alone with his art:

But who shot JR? A certain wise guy with dead-eye aim, Jonathan de Villiers, hitman this time for the New York Times.

The wonderful pun "photograffeur" is not my own, incidentally, but I wish that I'd coined it . . .

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At 4:29 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

That Nairobi shot is incredible.

At 4:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

One could almost fall into it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:37 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

You might enjoy this TED talk by JR.

At 5:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. I wondered if he had given a talk for TED since he'd gotten a TED grant. I'll try to find time for the video.

Jeffery Hodges

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