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Can art change the world? Maybe...we should change the question: Can art change people’s lives? -JR

Can Art Change Peoples Lives?

Who is JR? JR owns the biggest art gallery in the world. He exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not typical museum visitors. His work mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit. After he found a camera in the Paris subway, he did a tour of European Street Art, tracking the people who communicate messages via the walls. Then, he started to work on the vertical limits, watching the people and the passage of life from the forbidden undergrounds and roofs of Paris. JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators. After these local exhibitions, the images are transported to London, New York, Berlin or Amsterdam where people interpret them in the light of their own personal experience. As he remains anonymous and doesn’t explain his huge full frame portraits of people making faces, JR leaves the space empty for an encounter between the subject/protagonist and the passer-by/interpreter. This is what JR’s work is about. Raising questions...

Projects 28 Millimeters Portraits of a Generation Face2Face Women are Heroes Wrinkles of the City Inside Out Project

INSIDE OUT Project INSIDE OUT gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for. It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art. Each INSIDE OUT group action around the world is documented, archived and exhibited online.


Sebastião Salgado Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8th, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lives in Paris. Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris.

Dorothea Lange During the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange photographed the unemployed men who wandered the streets. Her photographs of migrant workers were often presented with captions featuring the words of the workers themselves. Lange’s first exhibition, held in 1934, established her reputation as a skilled documentary photographer. In 1940, Lange became the first woman to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” -Dorthea Lange

In 1986 Sebastião Salgado began a series of reportages on the theme of manual labor, throughout the different continents. This work was conceived to tell the story of an era. The images offer a visual archaeology of a time that history knows as the Industrial Revolution, a time when men and women work with their hands provided the central axis of the world. The highly industrialized world is racing ahead and stumbling over the future. In reality, this telescoping of time is the result of the work of people throughout the world, although in practice it may benefit few. The developed world produces only for those who can consume-approximately one-fifth of all people. The remaining four-fifths, who could theoretically benefit from surplus production, have no way of becoming consumers. The destiny of men and women is to create a new world, to reveal a new life, to remember that there exists a frontier for everything except dreams. In this way, they adapt, resist, believe, and survive.

“Those people who want to use a camera should have something in mind, there’s something they want to show, something they want to say...I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty. “ -Gordon Parks Shooting Back

Gordon Parks Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, Civil Rights, and urban life. In addition, Parks was also a celebrated composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the most prominent people of his era—from politicians and artists to celebrities and athletes.

In the early 1980s, while a staff photographer for United Press International (UPI) in Washington, D.C., Jim Hubbard began documenting the lives of the homeless. Over time, he found that whenever he took pictures of the families the children wanted to hold and look through his camera. It was this innocent curiosity and enthusiasm that inspired Hubbard to establish a program that would enable the homeless children to learn photographic skills and document their world. In 1989, Jim Hubbard created Shooting Back, an organization dedicated to empowering children at risk by teaching them photography. The name was coined from a spontaneous comment by one of the young participants in the program: when asked why he was photographing his own world, the homeless child responded, “I’m shooting back.”

Waste Land

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to reimagine their lives. In the end, is stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

left: Vik Muniz at Jardim Gramacho

Nikki Lee This photograph is part of a series of projects in which Lee has immersed herself in a series of American subcultures-punks, tourists, yuppies, lesbians, club kids, drag queens, senior citizens-observing and adopting the dress, behavior, and body language of each for weeks or months at a time. After transforming her own appearance, Lee approaches members of the group, explains her project, and has a friend or passerby photograph her with a small automatic-focus camera. Part Zelig, part Cindy Sherman, Lee cleverly explores the mutability of social identity as well as the immigrant’s desire to blend into a new culture. This photograph was taken in a trailer park in eastern Ohio.

Creative Resources JR Dorothea Lange php?artist_id=3373

Sebasti達o Salgado Gordon Parks Shooting Back Waste Land | Documentary Nikki Lee Hello Neighbor Project Shooting Beauty Baltimore United Viewfinders Poland Personally Books Writing for Change: Boosting Literacy and Learning Through Social Action National Writing Project

A Choice of Weapons Gordon Parks

Photography & Social Change  
Photography & Social Change