How JR found heroism in the faces of these women
From Braziian favela to Kenyan settlement the artist humanises urban environments with faces of the oppressed
JR: Can Art Change The World? is a wonderful monograph, the first dedicated to the enigmatic Parisian former graffiti tagger turned fine artist, JR. As a book it is as bracingly unorthodox in its presentation as the man himself. The challenge posed by this artist is one he attempts to meet in every aspect of his work. He seeks to humanise the urban environment by emblazoning it with the faces of ordinary people, who might otherwise remain socially invisible.
This is particularly the case with women, who in some societies play a far more subordinate role than men. Hence JR’s project Women Are Heroes. Travelling in conflict zones, he noticed the extent to which women are the victims of crimes against humanity ranging from rape to extreme religious fanaticism. Recognising the vital role they play in society, JR sought with this project to restore to them the dignity and credit that is their due by photographing them in their day to day lives and pasting their images, large and prominently, in their villages or nearby cities.
A selection of black and white images of women from around the world shows just how willing they were to take advantage of this rare opportunity for self-expression and to tell their stories, even if only in silent but eloquent gazes to camera. Linda Marinho De Oliveira of Brazil, a widow who lives in a favela and highlights the egregious practices of the trigger-happy police, nonetheless blazes with vivacious good humour to camera; she is determined to celebrate her life and community. Urmila Devi from India stares with wide-eyed intent into the camera lens; after being forced to turn to prostitution due to adverse familial and economic circumstances, she now has a better way of life with her husband and has regained her self-respect. We who are relatively privileged are privileged all the more to witness these photos. Find out more about the book here, and pre-order your copy here.