I saw a documentary last night about the TED-prize winning French photographer/street artist, JR. The film documented JR's Women are Heroes project where he went around the world photographing regular women in difficult living situations such as a Favela in Rio and Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Nairobi and then displayed their images in huge-scale on buildings, trains, stairs, bridges, and other elements of their own urban environment. The installations are temporary and eventually they fade and peel away from the surfaces to which they are pasted. It seems that he involves the community in putting up the photos and for a while they feel as if they involved in something important and beautiful. The idea, I think, is to make visible those women that have previously been invisible and under-represented and to make people interested in in their lives. In the words of one of the women living in Kibera, if someone sees her photo, he or she "would like to know who she is and what she does with her life."
JR is not really going to tangibly change their desperate situations by doing these interventions and his subjects are aware that the photos are not going to permanently improve their environment. However, I think there is still value in adding some beauty, hope, and a sense of equality into someone's life when there is so little of that around them. It also raises awareness of their situation and highlights the importance of women in the developing world. I see JR's projects as giving respect and dignity back to people who have perhaps never received those most basic of human feelings. I believe that if at the very least I can achieve the same in my own project then it will be a success.
All photos: JR Art