NEW YORK— From making a name as a street artist in Paris to painting Times Square, the man known as J R has been creating interest and new cityscapes of sorts. This young French artist has used blow ups of portrait photos to let people in South Africa, Israel, and the Palestinian territories express, with pride, who they are. Recently, he came to Manhattan and Times Square, where he did a New York version of his now famous project.
Poster-sized pictures of New Yorkers decorated the asphalt and a huge billboard in Times Square, one of the most iconic spots in the world.
It was the latest venue for J R and his project to let people - all over the world - be recognized.
People of all ages, races and backgrounds put their stamp on the place known for its proximity to Broadway and New York's theater district.
The project is called “Inside Out New York City.” At a photo truck, people waited to have their photos taken. After they were snapped, their faces were printed on huge posters. They could either paste them on the street or take them home.
J R is French. He won the prestigious TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Prize and used the $100,000 award to fund this project, creating giant portrait galleries in cities around the world and giving people the chance to express themselves on a huge canvas.
"I thought, let [s] turn this inside out. Let me let them do the photo. If they do not know how to print, I will print for them for free. They can afford, but I want them to express [themselves] with the message they want.... I love the whole interaction about it. Because it’s not if the picture is nice or not nice, it’s about the whole process - people waiting, people talking with other people. The whole process is about interaction," said J R.
The City of New York offered Times Square to J R. A billboard owner gave him the largest display case in the area. Gina Steffe, J R’s assistant, says love was all around.
“Yesterday we had an engagement. A man came and waited about two and a half hours in line and had a sign which said 'Sarah I love you, will you marry me.' And then he had a little check, yes, and check, no. And so he took his poster with the sign and then the poster came out, and he handed her a pen, and she started crying, then laughing, and she checked yes, and they got engaged here," said Steffe.
As one person put it, J R has become a global curator and the world is his gallery.