Photographer JR Wins Prestigious TED Prize for Giant Faces in Slums

The TED conference announced yesterday that the 2011 TED Prize would be awarded to the anonymous street artist and photographer known as JR. Previous winners of the $100,000 award include Bill Clinton, James Nachtwey and Bono.

In the announcement, TED writes,

JR creates pervasive art that spreads uninvited on buildings of Parisian slums, on walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa or in favelas in Brazil. People in the exhibit communities, those who often live with the bare minimum, discover something absolutely unnecessary but utterly wonderful. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Elderly women become models for a day; kids turn into artists for a week. In this art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.

The 27-year-old prints massive portraits on waterproof vinyl, and displays them prominently in slums, drawing attention to the neglected residents of those downtrodden areas. He also reinvests most of the money he makes from his art into future projects — one of his pieces went for more than $35,000 in 2009 — and plans to do the same with his TED Prize winnings. Artist Shepard Fairey calls JR “the most ambitious street artist working“, while French journalist Fabrice Bousteau wrote that JR is “the one we already call the Cartier-Bresson of the 21st century”.

To see photos of some of JR’s creations, check out his website.

Award to Artist Who Gives Slums a Human Face (via dvafoto)

  • Ranger9

    “Known as JR”… so, does he get a $100,000 check that says “Pay to the order of JR”? Seeing as how he managed to get himself submitted for this award and sells work at pricetags of up to $35,000, I suspect that somewhere he’s got a real name and possibly even a biography — guess we’ll have to wait for real journalists to find this out.

    And ooh, he “also reinvests most of the money he makes from his art into future projects.” Is that any different from an amateur painter who sells a piece now and then and uses the money to buy more art materials? Or a part-time wedding photographer who plows his earnings back into improving his gear?

    TED must stand for “twits who are easily deluded”…

  • Valentino

    JR’s work about posting images on walls, etc, is not about photography. . . it is simply about art’s way of making people snap out of some delusion . . . some trance that turns people into the walking “dead,” in this crazy world. We are constantly bombarded with so much “noise” that this strange buzz in our lives makes us act like vibrating pebbles . . our eyes so wide open, yet we cannot discern anything around us. We simply follow the noise.

  • John Robertson

    The cheeky bugger has stolen my nickname!

  • Nic


    Reached by telephone on Wednesday morning on a bus in Shanghai, where he was headed to work on a largely unauthorized photo-pasting project to draw attention to the city’s demolition of historic neighborhoods, J R said that he had learned of the prize only two weeks ago and that he had not yet had time to think of a wish.

    “I’m kind of stunned,” he said of the prize. “I’ve never applied for an award in my life and didn’t know that somebody had nominated me for this.”

  • roland

    well if, in order to be the cartier-bresson of the 21st century, you have to make people do silly faces in front of a wide angle lens, and to make it even more obnoxious, print it huge, then photography has really fallen pretty low since cartier-bresson…