Interview with JR, a Street Art Master


He won a TED prize by sticking enlarged pictures on walls in the street. Get here a little private interview with JR, a master of street art.

Hello JR, how are you? Life is good?

Very good thanks!

JR / Exposition Paris 2009 – Ile Saint Louis by JR

Who is JR?

Two letters.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Nobody inspired me when I started 10 years ago because at that time I knew nothing about the artistic scene. I then started getting into it, along with other movements, progressively through the years. I love the work of Georges Rousse, Ernest Pignon Ernest, Blu… for their use of space and streets.
We live in a world of images and just this fact was a source of inspiration.

How do you choose a particular combination of photograph and building?

As a function of the message given and the symbolism of the building… There’s no typical example, it all changes according to the context, the country, etc…

How do you approach your models, what do you tell them to get such nice portraits?

As an ‘urban artivist’ I try to create an infiltrating art that gets posted on walls. I am not a mercenary. My projects talk about people, they are the ones interesting me, those of daily life.

I come with a precise idea that I submit to them, and the process begins. I listen to their reactions, I adapt to it. Then, there never is a moment where I have to convince them, everything goes like a constant dialogue.

During sticking actions, inhabitants naturally get involved in the artistic process. Anyone can join the sticking if she or he finds it meaningful. In Brazil for example, children transformed themselves into artists for a week. In these artistic actions there is no scene separating actors from spectators.

My anonymousness allows me to leave a free space for a meeting between a subject/actor and a pedestrian/comedian, which constitutes the essence of my art. Photography has always been a vector of meeting and social link to me.

You are apparently a philanthropist who trusts Human kind, believing in the possibility of a collective effort towards a common goal. For my part, I worked on the effects of global warming in the Arctic, and I must confess I have lost hope. Please convince me to keep hope, believe in Human kind…

With the project Inside Out (, anyone becomes an actor of this collective effort, which doesn’t aim to save the world, but to change the vision we have of it. This participative art is to me a concrete way to sensibilise Human kind to any causes that deserve to be defended!

Do you have a particular story to share with us?

When Rosiete, the main character of the movie, one of the most implicated in the succeeding of the favela project, she was cooking every day for us, came to the exposition opening in Paris and cooked for the visitors! Her trip to Paris transformed her as much as our trip to her favela.

Why do you want to stay ‘pure’ and avoid depending on a sponsor?

Because working for a brand would annihilate the meaning of my work: if there was a big cosmetic brand in the generic of the movie Women are Heroes, while this movie is dedicated to underline womens’ dignity around the world, what would be the strength and value of this message?
I think it is important to stay, as today, in self-funding, in order to never reach a self-imposed limit and never be associated with advertisement for a brand.

For you, everything started with a camera found in the subway, what camera was it?

It was back in 2000. It was an automatic camera with an over-powerful flash, I still have it. Black and white film of all brands, the important thing is the image.

Analogue or digital photography, or both?

I shoot with both. All my portraits are analogue, but the need for reactivity in the cities where I stick made me convert to digital. The very tense context in Brazil’s favelas didn’t give me time to process and scan my photographs to enlarge them. When I shoot digital, I can shoot and stick the same day!

You won a TED price, how was it?

It is interesting to see how nowadays art has invaded streets: barriers were abolished. Artists are getting out of the frame, out of the museum, and use the urban landscape. The fact that TED recognizes my vision of things is an honor, but it will particularly help me take a turn. I will be able to cross even more limits. TED’s vision is close to mine. I never asked for any authorization, people are the ones allowing me to do what I do. TED’s strength is the community. That’s why we are going to push the limits together, associate our strengths. It’s a little bit as if they were coming with us in the streets to stick with us.

Until now I was going around the world with a small team. Now we have to sit and determine how to implicate two million people to do something good.

I’ve heard about the TED prize for years, but I never attended one of their talks, except on the internet. It is very interesting to see how people want to change things, change the vision we have of the world. This collaboration with TED pushes me to try something new. I always self-funded my projects by selling in galleries and I never accepted that brands were associated with my work.

Download Hi-Res TED video:
TED Page:

A few related links:
Article in Beaux Arts magazine:
Link to JR site:
Link to inside out project site:
Link ‘Women are heroes’ official site: Women are Heroes

All photos ©

written by stouf on 2011-04-29 in #lifestyle #ted #jr #portrait #brazil #enlargement #street-art #poster #france #street #art #interview


  1. naqi
    naqi ·

    very inspiring.. :D

  2. bulletofmine
    bulletofmine ·

    wow, JR is a man. His artworks were really inspiring ! thanks for sharing this !

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