Inside Out Katherine

13 July 2023

A New Community Identity Project Involving Hundreds of Portraits and a Giant Public Art Mural for the 2023 Dry Season
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A community portrait and identity project featuring over 170 friends, residents, and neighbours in Katherine! Just before the Dry Season began, our team started talking about making new creative environments with the events crew at Katherine Town Council. At a regular gathering of Activate Katherine in April, I suggested that we do an Inside Out Project to help reflect the diverse and interesting people in our region. “What’s that?” someone asked, “And how do we participate?”

I showed some samples of Inside Out from other towns and cities: hundreds of smiling faces, boring walls made brighter, sense of place revealed through the human element. In the meeting room at Katherine Civic Centre, eyes lit up and you could feel the excitement grow. “How does it work?” someone else asked.

Communities like ours are given tools and a project framework, and then empowered to oversee their own project.  Local people are invited to have a portrait made and join a collective creative statement of where we live, work, and play. “We love it!” everybody said in unison, and right then and there we decided to go for it—Inside Out Katherine was born! Later this Dry Season—when a humongous mural of 100+ portraits goes up at the centre of town—we will become the first place in the Northern Territory to become part of the world-wide Inside Out project. 

The global public art phenomenon Inside Out was founded a decade ago in France by an artist known as JR—and is based on celebrating people and communities through large photographic portraits and giant public art murals (like the ones you see below). From the first mural in 2011, over 2000 projects have happened in almost 150 locations (involving over a half-million participants)!

In partnership with the events team Katherine Town Council, Godinymayin has captured over 150 portraits of our community and planning a giant public art mural to debut in July. Our Gallery Coordinator Max Paez is working with Sinead Te Wake from Council. We’ve been helped by Activate Katherine, the Northern Territory Government’s Big Rivers Regional Office, Katherine Sign Management, Zip Printing, Top End Repainters, and Hire Power. To learn about how Inside Out Katherine will work—and how you can or your family participate in our visual sense of place celebration—just keep reading! 

About Inside Out Katherine 

Where did this project come from? Who is coordinating it? How do I get involved? What local businesses are supporting this? Can I pull a face, pout, or laugh at the camera? Where will the Inside out Katherine mural be? Enough questions: here’s everything you need to know to be part of it all…

What is the Inside Out project? 

The Inside Out Project is a global public art initiative involving dozens of portraits that form a large outdoor mural. It is a community identity project aimed at helping towns and cities transform uninteresting places and celebrate who they are—with faces, expressions, and people! Begun in France in 2011, the Inside Out Project has since created over 2000 murals in 149 countries and involved over a half million people.

Why is it happening in Katherine?

This process is being led by a small team of Godinymayin and Katherine Town Council staff who hope to make our downtown more interesting and creative. We’re doing it because we love expressive places and celebrating community identity. And because it’s an easy way to make for a creative Dry Season. Inside Out Katherine can involve anybody and everybody who wants to smile for the camera, and have their portrait added to the public art mural that will fill the Katherine Cinema wall from early July. 

Who else is helping make this project possible?

It takes a village tom make a community mural like Inside Out Katherine. With this project, we’ve had generous support come from the Northern territory Government’s Big Rivers regional office, Katherine Sign Management, Zip Print, Hire Power, Top End Repaints, and the good folks at Katherine Oasis Shopping Centre. In fact, they’ve made it easy! And there has been amazing support from the New York-based team at Inside Out, guiding us every step of the way.

How does the project work?

In later may, we ran a community portrait studio inside the Katherine Oasis Shopping Centre. Residents and community members stopped by and sat for a photo and become part of this creative initiative. In June we will work with the Inside Out headquarters to prepare the images and plan our new Katherine public art mural. The final step is the installation of the public art wall—planned for early July—when a giant mural of 100+ faces will appear on the side of the Katherine Cinema building in First Street. For several months it will reflect our diverse community and greet visitors as they explore town. And then, as the Wet Season rolls in, the portraits will be de-installed and the wall will return to its previous state.       

Q: Can anybody participate, and what does that involve?

Yes, our Inside Out Katherine project is intended for all! Anyone can participate simply by sitting for a portrait—and we are most interested in residents and people who are not just visiting temporarily. There is no cost, the photographic will only take a few minutes, and your smile will appear above our town in July to welcome the Dry Season. And if you’ve missed the portrait-taking part of this project, stay tuned – maybe we’ll expand the scope and do it again!

Q: Can I make a funny face?

Please do. We want the portraits to express the interesting, fun, happy (and also serious) side of life here. Pull a goofy face, stare meaningfully, wink, and be yourself! Add your personality to the mural wall of Katherine people and community faces.

Q: How will my portrait be used and displayed?

In June, we will print 150 posters of Katherine people and install them side by side as one giant look at who we are. This public art mural will be featured on the large wall that faces the Katherine Cinema car park, where many Dry Season events take place—and remain on view until October. We will share the portraits with the Inside Out project headquarters (who will archive them) and may also use them on our organisation’s website and social media pages. We have asked everybody who sat for a portrait to give us those basic permission—and won’t use the photographs in any other ways. 

Q: Who do I contact for more information?
For more information, you can click here to contact our Gallery Coordinator Max Paez at Godinymayin, or phone him on 8972 3751 to discuss Inside Out Katherine. 

We are a Camera
Exploring Photography and Creative Placemaking

The following interview excerpt is from “What matters is what you do with the image: JR’s Inside Out” by Tiffany Fairy for the Photography as a Social Practice website. You can read the full story from 2018 here.

While so many socially engaged participatory art projects put the emphasis on the creation and making of the artwork, Inside Out is about getting those images out “into the wild”. It is more visual activism than participatory art. The focus is on putting the images out into the world, on coming up with ways and places to paste and use them to spread a message. JR is involved in locally rooted community art through Casa Amarela in Morro da Providencia, Rio but with Inside Out the proposal is different. It is an attempt to create a global platform and network. With the Inside Out team taking care of the image production and cost, community organisers are freed up to concentrate their energies on what they can do with their images, on what they can charge them with saying and where they want them to go. I talked to Marc Azoulay, who manages Inside Out out of JR’s New York studio about the project and its evolution.

At Last Count (in 2018) there have been 1650 projects in 140 countries. Do you notice differences between different cultures and countries in how the project is adopted, in how the images are used and the responses they generate?

Definitely. It is received very differently because photography is treated very differently in different cultures. In some countries and places taking pictures and/or pasting them is controversial or even illegal. Pictures are taken down straight away. We have been amazed with how people have made this project their own. Pictures have been put in so many places. When they have been unable to paste people have protested with the pictures, putting them on boards.

The project that has generated the most media attention was actually not pasted onto walls. The image of a child was rolled out of the ground. It was the size of a football field. JR got invited to many places to talk about this project. People are not used to seeing pictures that are so big except for advertising purposes. So people are always wondering – why, what is this about? The idea is to create a link between communities, between people, for people to connect with the faces of others. To get people to ask why is this person here? To trigger a reaction in people, to get them to think about what these people are saying.

Does it matter who takes the portraits? Is it relevant? 

No. Because it is not about taking the pictures. It is about getting the poster and doing something with it. For me it doesn’t matter who takes the pictures. But getting the information about the project out to all corners of the world has proven difficult. Sometimes it is the travellers who come from Western countries going to far away places that bring the project to those places. Of course it can be said that the project has been brought by an outsider into these communities but to me it would not have happened otherwise. To me, the important thing is that it happens rather than who takes the pictures.

What has surprised you about the Inside Out process? 

When we started the project it was supposed to be for a year. When you make a TED wish, it is normally done over a year. But we have been amazed. We have been amazed by how people donate. There is the option to donate $20 a poster if you can. We also offer to send it for free if people do not have any money or they can make a partial donation. But we have been amazed by how people keep donating. It is not enough to support the project so of course JR continues to cover the costs and we generate some income from other places. We also had always felt that if the project was too successful it would be a problem because everyone would be asking to participate and we would not be able to handle it.

Many things have been surprising but we did not have expectations. When we do a project – with Inside Out or as JR’s studio – we do not think this or that is going to happen. We just do something that has never been done before and you can’t predict what will happen. That is the difference between business and art, a business cannot fail but art can fail and that is ok. There is no right or wrong answer. It is however people take it.

In what other ways has the project ethos changes over the years?

The project has changed in many ways. That was one of the first things we realised, that maybe JR shouldn’t be there. Also in the beginning we would send a poster to anyone that asked and individual posters. We quickly realised that people were just keeping them in their rooms and houses. It required huge logistics to print and send out so many individual posters. After a year we decided not to send individual posters and to create group actions where we could be surer that people would be organised and go out in the street and paste their photos. Last year we took it even further by requiring each action to involve 50 portraits or more which makes for bigger actions, bigger statements and more organisation but also more meaning. We are flexible on that rule so if people have a really strong action but don’t have 50 pictures then we’ll still do it.

With the PhotoBooths there have also been changes. In the first PhotoBooth at the Pompidou there was nowhere to paste and we just gave people their posters. But then we realised if you provide a wall and a platform for people to express themselves and paste their pictures right away then they will not want to take them home, they will understand more the meaning of the project. For instance when we did a PhotoBooth on Times Square we had 100s of portraits and people would line up for 2-3 hours to get their portraits done. They were seeing and watching us pasting them all on the floor and they would want to give their picture. Even if we didn’t have time to print their picture immediately or do the pasting in front of them or with them. It didn’t matter, it was important to them that their faces were added to that pasting. They did not want to keep their pictures for themselves.

I don’t think about it in terms of highs and lows but there have been times when we have had great actions and others were slower. And the project has evolved because the team changes. There have been changes too in people’s approaches to photography and to images of themselves since the project started. In 2011 the term selfie had not been coined. When it became more mainstream people started to say we were just making selfies. They are not but they can be if you want. They are images of people but not necessarily selfies. People’s own changing views on photography and approaches to pictures of themselves has had an effect on shaping the project.

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