The Mural Arts program highlights “How Philly Moves” as part of PIFA events.
“How Philly Moves” is a photographic project started by Philadelphia-based photographer Jacques-Jean “JJ” Tiziou in spring of 2008 with a clear mission: to use dance to unite the community through photography.
Tiziou’s project captures images of various dancers who are projected on the outside wall of the Kimmel Center until May 1, and their images will soon welcome visitors into the city at the Philadelphia International Airport.
“It’s about using those two universal languages of dance and photography to get at the bigger, common link between all of us,” Tiziou said. “It’s about holding these photo shoots where we bring people from all different parts of the city, different facets of life that don’t always cross paths in the everyday city and bring them all into the same space and photograph them all in the same way and seeing that they have so much in common.”
In September 2008, photo shoots were held for the Philly Fringe Festival, and in Spring 2010, the project was picked up by the Mural Arts program through a contest to propose a mural to serve as the “gateway to the city.” The program is supporting and sponsoring this project because it “builds on Philadelphia’s longstanding commitment to the production of public art.
Tiziou’s website spreads a message that everyone is photogenic, by saying that the word “photogenic” refers to the scene or moment, not the person. If a photographer misses a moment, it is his or her fault, not the subject’s.
“Photography has allowed for me to plug myself into a lot of different worlds, and everywhere I’ve looked, I’ve found nothing but beautiful people who I’m excited to take portraits of,” he said. “It seems to be a basic thing to me, though it’s definitely something that not everyone has agreed upon.”
Along with photography, Tiziou has applied his love of dance to unite all members of the community. Just as everyone is photogenic, he said he believes everyone can dance.
“Dance, like photography, is a universal language,” Tiziou said. “It’s something that everyone can get even if you don’t do that particular style of dance. You can see someone doing it and understand the joy and feel the connection through that movement. Movement is what we’re made for. When we stop moving finally, that’s death.”
“Every single human being in the city is a potential dance partner,” he added.
Through a constantly changing digital projection as part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, each of the participating 170 dancers will get their chance to shine.
Approximately 26 dancers will be featured on the airport mural, each representing a different ethnicity, gender and age as an attempt to incorporate every dynamic of the city. Tiziou expressed the difficulties he faced in choosing the 26 images as there were many challenges such as how the shapes of the dancers would fit together on the wall, how they would interact with each other and the negative space and how to accurately represent the city’s diversity.
There will also be an exhibit in the baggage claim area that will showcase the artwork of every participant.
He said he wanted all citizens to be able to look at the art and say, “I feel welcome up there.”
“It represented a part of the city that isn’t shown every day and something that I think is inside us all,” sophomore psychology and occupational therapy major Danielle Utianski said. “It’s very relatable and powerful to view.”
This 50,000-square-foot mural will be the second largest in the world and, “will transform a large portion of the parking garage into a memorable ‘gateway’ for travelers and visitors to the region, adding spectacular beauty and color to the airport’s landscape and enlivening the travel experience of millions.”
“There’s a lot of different takes on it, but it’s really about community, as opposed to about celebrity,” Tiziou said. “It’s about appreciating one’s neighbors and everyone really. Beyond just in pictures, it’s about basic human rights, it’s about body image, [and] it’s about fairness. It’s about fighting that idea of us versus them and just making it us.”
Nichole Baldino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.