French photographer JR's "Women are Heroes" is powerful. The film, trailer above, made its debut at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival last year where it received a long standing ovation. It documents the artist's travels photographing downtrodden, poor and victimised women. The photos, the bases for his large outdoor installations, more importantly strive to empower the women featured.
JR utilises the largest exhibition space in the world, exhibiting his works freely on the streets of the world's cities, catching the attention of people who are not normally art gallery or museum visitors. Working with a team of volunteers in various urban environments, he mounts enormous black-and-white photo canvases that are spread on the buildings. These images become part of the local landscape and capture people's attention and imagination both locally and around the world. During his projects, elderly women become models for a day and children turn "artist" for a week. In this art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the audience..
In Rio de Janeiro, JR turned hillsides into dramatic landscapes by applying images to the facades of the favela houses. In Kenya, while working on "Women are Heroes," he turned Kibera into a stunning gallery of local faces. In 2007 JR created Face 2 Face, along with his friend and art activist Marco, which some consider to be the biggest illegal photo exhibition ever done. JR and a grassroots team of community members posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, on both sides of the security/separation fence/wall.
This year (2011) along with Bill Clinton and Bono, JR was awarded the prestigious TED prize. You can listen to JR's 2007 audio interview with Lens Culture here.