Three weeks ago a series of large, striking, black-and-white photos of women appeared plastered around the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.
I followed the website address on one of the posters (click here) to the Inside Out art project, a global initiative spearheaded by the Paris-based Tunisian photographer JR with a $100,000 TED Prize grant. Here's a description from the site:
"INSIDE OUT is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually."
There was an interesting article on JR in The New Yorker in November last year (click here for an abstract):
In the spring, JR launched a million-dollar global participatory project called “Inside Out,” for which he will not take a single picture. Instead, he is encouraging people to take their own portraits, which they can send to him with a statement of purpose; he will print the photos on a large scale and return them, so that participants can paste them wherever they choose. “The idea is that you have to stand for what you care about,” he explained on Al Jazeera.
This San Francisco Main Branch library wasn't on the project website, so I went to the library and asked if anybody knew who had sponsored this particular installation and why was it all women? Nobody at the information desk in the lobby could tell me a thing, and the installations and public relations office on the sixth floor was mostly empty, and the few people who were there didn't seem to know anything about it either.
I finally received the information from library curator Everett Erlandson who told me that the photos had been installed by something called the International Museum of Women. On their website (click here), they explain that the installation is called Making Mothers Visible San Francisco, but they haven't been very good at getting the word out. I was hoping that the exhibit was simply pictures of my Civic Center neighbors, and the fact that it was supposed to be about making mothers "visible" never crossed my mind.