JR is the moniker for the French photographer and street artist born in 1983 in Paris. He employs a unique technique where he essentially installs photography onto streetscapes and public spaces. He has also displayed his work on rooftops and on public transportation vehicles. He has described himself as a photograffeur, a play on words combining “photographer” and “graffeur,” the French word for graffiti artist. He believes the accessibility of the street makes it the largest art gallery in the world.
JR explores social themes such as freedom and identity through his gigantic printed photographs, which he applies by flyposting, a guerrilla marketing tactic where unauthorized posters are attached to public facades. His work, typically in black and white, features faces or urban imagery to challenge stereotypes of people and places as well as expose the reductive nature of advertising and media. His portraits feature intimate, unguarded and authentic personalities, whom he captures with a wideangle lens, to highlight stories of people who are often marginalized or unseen. These portraits aim to provide moments of solidarity and empathy with the viewer.
His work has been installed across the globe, and JR generally creates site-specific work that reflect the particular history, culture, or identity of each location. Sometimes politically charged, his installations stir debate and discussion around important sociocultural issues. Other times, his work is more witty or humorous, optimistically encouraging unity and harmony. JR has also displayed a growing interest in architecture and design, as seen with his massive 2016 photo-collage that transformed the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris into an optical illusion. The work encourages viewer participation and reflects his common themes of reality, memory, and impermanence. He is currently based in Paris.