French Photograffeur JR Brings Street Art to the District

by October 11, 2012 at 11:00 am 2,572 1 Comment


The work of artist JR  at the northwest corner of 14th and T Streets NW. (Laetitia Brock)

From Laetitia Brock. Email her at laetitia[AT] You can follow her at @FrenchTwistDC and on her own blog, French twist DC.

If you attended the inaugural party launch for Cafe Saint-Ex’s Pass the Peas on Wednesday (the Pass the Peas series is a soul food and music event that takes place on the second Wednesday of each month), you may have noticed a new sight across the street. Over the past two days, French photograffeur “JR” and a team of volunteers from New York and DC took over the façade of an empty building at 1401 T Street NW.

The result? A new black-and-white civil rights-themed mural based on a picture of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 by photographer Ernest Withers.

It’s a rare treat to have JR, a photographer, street artist and activist (or photograffeur, from the mix of the French words for photographer and graffiti) here in the District. Outside of his (and my!) hometown of Paris, he typically works in more “tense” areas, like the slums of Kibera, Kenya, the favellas of Rio de Janeiro or the wall separating the Palestinian territories from Israel.

In fact, JR has only worked twice before in the United States, in New York (he’s keeping an eye on the Williamsburg bridge and the high line) and in Los Angeles. We can thank Lauren Gentile of Contemporary Wing (1412 14th Street NW) for helping bring JR to our town and our little part of the city. Gentile, who had previously been instrumental in bringing Shepard Fairey to our area, pursued the Frenchie after watching and being inspired by his TED Talk online (JR won a TED prize last year). And we’re sure glad she did!

I’m not sure how long the mural will stay up for, but I personally love it.

What do you think?

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