Africa’s New Space Program
JR is the biggest photographer in the world, or at least on GoogleEarth. “Women Are Heroes,” the newest and most ambitious project from the French graffiti artist and photographer – “photograffiteur,” if you will – is so big it can be seen from space.
Where the project is making its biggest impact, however, is in the African slums where it is produced. JR travels through some of the poorest areas of such countries as Sudan, Kenya, and Sierra Leone photographing women who have been the victims of violence and sexual exploitation. He says of working with the women, “They all wanted to share their story…when you hear the story you’re like, ‘Woah, maybe the person has died inside,’ but then when you ask her to do a face, then you can see life.”
Next, the pictures are blown up and posted in the women’s neighborhoods on things like busses, buildings, loading docks, and trains. JR takes women with the ugliest of stories and most degrading of reputations, finds and extracts their beauty, and then shows it to their communities. A woman who poses for JR suddenly finds herself celebrated by the very people who made her feel victimized and forgotten, thus renewing her self-image and transforming her societal role.
In Kibera, Kenya, is where “Women Are Heroes” goes intergalactic. In this slum, one of the largest in Africa, JR posts the photographs on his subjects’ rooftops using water-resistant materials to protect their delicate homes during the rainy season. Over 2,000 square meters of rooftops are covered, making the installation large enough to be captured by satellite imaging.