The Inside Out Project

I stumbled upon an artistic endeavour that is equal parts ingenious and inspiring called the Inside Out Project. It was spearheaded by a French “photograffeur” named JR, who began his street artist career when he found a camera on the Paris Metro.  Through his work, JR turns everyday people, who normally would not be visible to the general public, into artistic subjects accessible to all.  In 2003, he photographed street artists around Europe in black and white, posting the images in large format around Paris and Rome.  In 2006, JR daringly exhibited large-scale portraits of the inhabitants of Paris’ housing projects on the walls of bourgeois neighbourhoods, an illegal project that became official when Paris City Hall offered up its own walls. JR is a self-described urban activist and has successfully pasted large-format images of Palestinians and Israelis face to face, across eight cities on either side of the Separation Barrier.

The 2011 TED Prize winner, JR is characterized by TED as creating “pervasive art that spreads uninvited on buildings of Paris slums, on the walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa or in favelas of Brazil.”  The pasting phase has become a communal artistic process occurring in each exhibiting city, as he invites children and adults alike to become artists for a day.

JR vows to use his TED winnings to turn the world inside out.  The goal of the Inside Out project is to “create a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone will be challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities.  These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually.”

If you’re interested in creatively contributing to this global art project, upload your own black and white portraits to the Inside Out Project website.  To get involved and support the program non-creatively, you can donate a wall or purchase JR’s art, proceeds of which will be donated to the project.  To listen to an interview with JR about the meaning behind his large-format street art portraits and the goal of his current project, visit the TED Prize website and select “Watch the Video”.  It’s Friday, you can take the five minutes to watch it.

(All photos courtesy of TED Prize.  Clockwise from top left: the Middle East, Brazil, somewhere in Africa, Favela in Brazil)

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