The TED Conference has awarded its 2011 TED Prize to the street artist known as JR, who has plastered enormous photos on slums, industrial sites, office buildings and demolition sites in Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, Cambodia, France, Spain, the US and elsewhere. The TED prize , awarded annually to an individual who exemplifies innovation, includes a $100,000 cash award and the chance to see “a wish to change the world” realized. Previous winners have included President Bill Clinton, singer/activist Bono, chef and anti-obesity advocate Jamie Oliver and photojournalist James Nachtwey.
JR, who calls himself a “photograffeur,” dramatically transforms the neighborhoods where he posts images –sometimes at the risk of arrest or police harassment. In his best known project, “Women are Heroes,” JR and a crew of local volunteers posted large, close-up portraits of women on the walls and roofs of favelas in Rio De Janiero.
The New York Times has posted a slide show of JR’s projects. The slides illustrate how dramatic and compelling a human face can be when it’s several stories high and seen in a surprising context.
JR’s photo displays are usually a form of protest. In Shanghai, he is now plastering a historic neighborhood that is being demolished with his portraits of the area’s elderly residents. But earlier this year, he created a purely artistic statement in Vevey, Switzerland using images by other photographers. According to JR’s web site, jr-art.net, he displayed images by Man Ray, Helen Levitt and Robert Capa.