The city comes alive with the faces of the people who live in them. French artist JR has taken this literally, pasting photographs of faces on the rooftops and street walls, on bridges and buildings, and on the physical barriers that divide communities.
JR’s projects are truly international and diverse. In Brazil you look at the favela from a distance and all you can see are its inhabitants looking back at you from the hillside. JR has taken images of the youth of the French banlieues [suburbs] pulling comically scary faces and pasted their photographs in the bourgeois neighbourhoods of Paris in response to the fear and demonisation of these young people. He has also pasted the faces of Israelis and Palestinians side by side on the barrier that separates them. In Women are Heroes, JR turns his focus to women who are victims of conflict, war, violence and oppression.
With these giant images, the community reclaims the streets for a pasted moment, the faces of the unheard voices conquer the walls and thus their stories begin to be told. In order to hear these stories, JR engages closely with each community, gaining their confidence enough to capture their faces on camera, full of expression.
In 2011 JR was awarded the annual TED [Technology, Entertainment, Design] prize and was granted ‘One Wish to Change the World’. The result is the Inside Out project in which JR asks people to spread the spirit of his work by capturing and sharing their images in the same way he does – turning the world Inside Out.
JR goes on to say: ‘In some ways, art can change the world. Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world. Art can create an analogy. Actually the fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchanges and discussions, and then enables you to change the world. What we see changes who we are. When we act together, the whole thing is much more than the sum of the parts. So I hope that, together, we’ll create something that the world will remember. And this starts right now and depends on you.’ 
[All images Copyright JR.]
'Inside Out', New York City, USA (2011) - Inside Out is only one of JR’s projects that have sought to challenge preconceived notions and give the unheard a voice. In 2006 through Portrait of a Generation he made huge portraits of suburban ‘thugs’ from Paris’s notorious banlieues and posted them on the walls of the bourgeois districts of Paris. These images challenge the demonisation of these young men as their comical and mischievous faces loom over streets where they might often be viewed with suspicion.
'Inside Out', Karachi, Pakistan (2011) - JR’s Inside Out project has spread around the globe, allowing communities to bring their neighbourhoods to life by pasting their faces on the walls, reclaiming the streets as their own.
'Inside Out', Chiang Mai, Thailand (2011) - For the monk novices [samanens] it was a revolutionary and controversial move for them to paste their portraits on the wall of Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai. Permission was obtained from the Highest Monk of Chiang Mai, Pratepkonson, by Aline Deschamps, the instigator for this action, and she was able to convince the abbots of the temples of how Inside Out linked to Buddhist values by increasing tolerance through understanding of others. Though the posters only remained up for three hours before they were ripped down, they were symbolic in representing the young generation of monks.
'Women are Heroes in the Favela “Morro da Providência, Rio de Janiero (2008) - Women are Heroes focuses on women in conflict areas – as survivors, as targets, and as peace-builders – and pays tribute to their power and strength. Their hopeful and fearless portraits are blown up to a gigantic scale and displayed on public structures throughout the world – from Brazil to Kenya to Cambodia to India.
In 2008 riots broke out in Favela da Providência [known by many as the most dangerous favela] after three men from the community were brutally murdered, and corrupt army officials and the mafia were implicated. After hearing of these events on the news, JR flew to Rio de Janiero and began taking photos of the women from the favela, including those related to the men who had been killed. Their faces began to appear on the hillside, pasted on the sides of the buildings so that so that if you looked at the hill from a distance, all you could see were the faces of the women staring proudly back at you.
This project has also been turned into a film, which was released in 2011.
Inside Out, Israel (2011) - For ‘Time is Now, Yalla!’, JR and his team set up giant photobooths [in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Jaffe, Ramallah, Bethlehem and other cities] which captured about 1,000 photos a day for Inside Out. This visit took place four years after JR visited the Middle East with his Face 2 Face project, which aimed to contribute to a better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. Face 2 Face was the largest illegal photography exhibition ever, where portraits of Israelis and Palestinians doing the same job were pasted face to face, on both sides of the wall and in several cities.