On Africa Visual Media – itself a really interesting blog on African and Africa-related cultural artifacts in film, photography, television, and print– I came across a post about a visit that photographer/street artist JR made to the banlieues or ghettos that ring Paris after the 2005 riots. The upclose portraits (blown up to poster-sizes) of the young men and women whom he photographed were then pasted across Paris, an open-air (and illegal) exhibition entitled ‘28mm – portrait of a generation‘ that – in Kamau Mucoki’s words – brings the gallery to the street and forces Parisians to confront the images of these youths who are usually depicted as rioting, violent hoodlums.
Below is an excellent video of the shooting and pasting of the portraits he took in collaboration with Ladj Ly:
This is not the first time JR uses photographs as a social mobilisation and activism tool. He was also behind the Face2Face project, on which I blogged in the past. With a number of other artists – such as the Bolognese graffiti creator BLU, with whom he collaborated on the Outsides project in Wuppertal, and to whose genius I will dedicate another post soon – he wants to use public spaces as vehicles for his strong political messages. Thus, breaking the ostentatious separation between ‘art’ and ‘life’, he transforms his pictures into posters and makes open space photo galleries out of our streets.