People We Love: JR

A former street artist makes art for humanity.
JR black and white

When “JR” found a camera in the Paris Métro at age 15, he started taking photographs of his friends painting graffiti on city walls. At 17, he was pasting those photos up around town as his own kind of statement.

When one of his photos appeared in the background of news footage about urban rioting, JR realized the potential impact of his art. He took portraits of young people from the housing projects, made them into giant posters, and pasted them up around Paris to counter media stereotypes of menacing youth.

JR’s photos now have global reach. His portraits of Israelis and Palestinians divided by the separation barrier reveal the common humanity of people on both sides of a violent conflict. His latest project, “Women are Heroes,” emphasizes the dignity of women living in impoverished, war-stricken areas.

“They asked me, ‘Please. Make our story travel with you,’” JR said when he accepted an award at the TED 2011 conference.“So I did.”

  • Street artist JR brings art to improbable places, creating projects that force us to really see each other.

  • In Paris, Palestine, Peru, and beyond—guerrilla artist JR asks the people of the world share their faces to transform urban landscapes into stories.

  • How art healed and united troubled communities in the City of Brotherly Love.