In 2008 I became aware of a powerful idea: the display of large photographs of citizens on walls and buildings around the city.
France :: This was done in 2004 by famous French photographer JR in Montfermeil. During the youth protests of 2005 in Paris and other major cities, JR and film director Ladj Ly organized the display of large-sized pictures portraying inhabitants of the outskirts of Paris – the infamous banlieues – with grimaces on their faces. If they were perceived as dangerous, then yes, indeed, they could be fierce.. The impact was huge. Authorities went nuts, police rushed to wipe the posters off the walls.
The following works are a bit different, but they all aim on the people, on the inhabitants of a city:
Brazil :: IAPOI CREW collective conducted a daring project in 2010, called Retratos Coletivos (Collective Portraits). Each of four artists painted one façade of this building in São Paulo City, just beside Marginal Tietê (one of the city’s main roads). Check their blog [pt] for photos of all parts of the process: contacts with the inhabitants, the painting process, people’s reactions and how it looked like in the end.
France :: A few days ago, the artist YZ painted the walls of Lille with the city’s anonymous inhabitants in their everyday-life activities. She declared that “time will go by, the images will eventually disappear”, and that’s why she took photographs of the work.
Brazil :: Another initiative I admire a whole lot comes from São Paulo City as well. It’s the work of urban artist Mundano (“mundane”, in English). He went from grafitting politically motivated messages on walls to work directly with people. He used to go out looking for people who work collecting recyclable from the rubbish. He would talk to them and come up with messages to paint on their “wheelbarrow-style carts”. This one says “My car does not pollute” and this one says “Where are the ‘carroceiros’ in the government’s platform? We are the ones recycling São Paulo’s trash“. He also made many in Buenos Aires, Argentina, like this one, which says “My work is honest. What about yours?“.