French street artist JR (Faces Places) uses his portrait photography to draw worldwide attention to people who are often neither heard nor seen—like the inmates of the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. Here, convicts are serving long sentences which they often received when they were still minors. These are people who may never be able to escape the impulsive mistakes of their youth.
JR asked a group of 40 inmates to help him install a huge photo collage in the concrete prison yard. The film shows how the work draws these often seriously traumatized men out of their shells, and how members of different ethnic groups are sometimes able to have real contact with each other for the first time. By telling their stories, various detainees even manage to restore the broken relationships with their families.
“Paper and glue, that’s what I do,” is how JR describes his working method. Above all, what he does is make connections and dispel prejudices through something as simple as photography.