JR is a photographer who works on the borders of art and activism. To him the streets are one big art gallery and the city is the playground for gigantic shows. Since 2001, from Paris to Los Angeles via Montfermeil-Clichy-sous-Bois in France or Jerusalem, JR has presented many of his giant pasted photos in illicit street shows.
JR began photography in 2000 and started by photographing graffiti artists in action, then decided to invest himself the walls of his city, Paris.In 2004, he worked on his 28 millimeters series, which the first chapter called Portrait of a generation even made the New York Times cover. The giant portraits of young people from the Paris suburbs were then shown in their very own towns and then brought back, to raise consciousness, to the center of Paris on European House of Photography Art Center and on the Paris City Hall. After that in 2007 he added a second chapter to the series : 28 millimeters - Face2Face, Israelis and Palestinians - Portrait of twin brothers. JR made portraits of Israelis and Palestinians who had the same job to show them literally face to face on both sides of the separation / security wall in Israel and then in several Palestinian and Israeli towns.
Then from 2007 JR initiates his project Women Are Heroes that is displayed from 2008. By photographing women in Sierra Leone, Liberia, southern Sudan or Kenya, JR pays tribute to their dignity in these conflict areas and shares their stories. He exhibits their portraits in their home country and in spectacular exhibitions in several other cities around the world. The project leads JR in Brazil where he pursued to project to the scale of an entire favela, Cambodia and India. Women Are Heroes has also been the subject of a film made by JR, selected at Cannes Film Festival for the Critics' Week in association with the Official Selection.
Since then, JR has started a new series of works The Wrinkles of the City, imprinting the cities’ memories through the testimony of their elder inhabitants. Each pasted portraits is like a layer, thick of paper and glue, which is superimposed on the facades. The superimposition of the portraits and their wrinkles shows the city’s creases, highlights traces of history, sometimes in a painful way for a city that also looses certain aspect of its own youth.
March 2, 2011 at the TED conference in Long Beach, California JR called for the creation of an art project that the whole world would share: Inside Out Project. The concept is that everyone can share his portrait and a message with the world. The Photographic Cabins Inside Out are in the streets and thus allow everyone to participate. Since March 2011 more than 100,000 portraits were sent to over 108 countries. The project is exposed on the website www.insideoutproject.net.
In April 2014 JR became choreographer for the New York City Ballet and created Les Bosquets, a ballet inspired by his first project Portraits of a generation and riots in French suburbs in 2005. Six performances took place at Lincoln Center in New York.
In August 2014 JR is made to revive the memory of Ellis Island, island whereby immigrants entering the United States. Building on Ellis Island archives, he creates twenty collages that evoke the stories of these immigrants in the abandoned buildings of the island.