28 Millimetres: Women Are Heroes

Exhibition: Cities | October 11, 2011 by

In most informal settlements around the world, women are often central community members, yet they remain the most invisible. Self-described “photograffeur” (part graffiti artist, part photographer) and “urban activist” JR draws attention to the persistent strength of women in these communities with his Women Are Heroes series, part of his broader 28 Millimetres project. Using a wide-angle 28mm lens, JR captures extreme close-ups of women’s faces and covers informal settlements with large-scale reproductions of the images. The women actively participate by telling their stories and taking part in the artistic process. In Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, images of ten women’s faces and eyes cover 2,000 square meters (21,528 sq. ft.) of corrugated metal rooftops, and are visible from Google Earth satellites and the city’s elevated train tracks. The images are printed on water-resistant vinyl that protects the homes underneath. Images of women’s eyes also cover the train that passes through Kibera twice a day; the rest of the women’s faces are pasted on the slope beneath the train, so in the moment the train passes, the women’s portraits are complete.

In the Morro da Providência favela of Rio de Janeiro, ten women’s portraits are pasted onto the sides of houses and public stairways along a steep slope, positioned to look toward the city center. A number of them are of relatives of three young men killed in the favela, caught in the turf wars between corrupt military police and drug traffickers. The photographs reveal not grief or despair, but their identity and humanity. Such intimate portraits pasted in these urban landscapes allow passersby to encounter these women as large, central figures in their communities.

Artist: JR, with Kibera and Morro da Providência settlement communities. Kibera informal settlement, Nairobi, Kenya, and Morro da Providência, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2007–9. Photographic reproductions on vinyl, 


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