Inspired by his own series of giant paste-up portraits, the French street artist known as JR started a scheme back in 2011 encouraging people around the world to participate in his Inside Out project by doing their own pastings. They were encouraged to send in a portrait, shot in black and white, which was then printed in large format and sent back to them for free. These self-portraits have been pasted on buildings in large-scale outdoor artworks for ten years in 130 countries around the world. After 400,000 posters, the project is still going strong.
The Inside Out project has now morphed into JR’s new book, How Old Am I? The book charts people ages one through to 100 in numerical order, from one-year-old Gwen to 100-year-old Beatrice. Each age is represented by a person from a different country, and is intended to capture the process of growing older as well as the differences and similarities of people’s life experiences around the world.
Each section features a black and white photograph of the individual, a small map illustrating where they were born and where they live, and a short bio divulging their hopes and dreams, experiences and memories.
While the book incorporates photographs and vibrant design, the core of the book is the stories, which JR hopes will spark discussion between the children reading the book and their families. “My work is always an excuse to start a conversation, whatever it is and however we actually [do] that,” the artist explains. “Whenever we have those portraits pasted in the street or whenever I’m organizing a pasting, it’s actually an excuse for a conversation. That’s really the meaning of my work – it’s to create discussion.”
How Old Am I ? can be pre-ordered from the publisher here.