561 PICS

Walls, the way we separate ourselves

We have been building walls for as long as we could pile rock on rock, to separate ourselves from our neighbours. All these barriers fail. I will photograph these attempts at separation and how as human beings, not nations, we overcome.

Humans spend our time separating ourselves from each other, by finding our differences. We build barriers between ourselves to define differences. Sometimes we even build walls out of fear. But we are not all that different, and a hand reaching across a barrier is sometimes all it takes to bring peoples together.

Traveling to places, both ancient and modern, such Hadrians wall in Scotland, to the US/Mexico border, Palestine/Israel's Security Fence an the remnants of the Berlin Wall and the Korean DMZ zone, I'd like to document how we have tried to separate ourselves, and how we overcome this separation to become united in our humanity.

Rank: 32



walls not only separate us, but define who we think we are... great idea


... and even spiritual and virtual technology walls though a bit harder to photograph!


Thanks Zen, that's a great angle. When my wife and I were discussing this concept months ago (it's been brewing), one of the walls we wanted to include was the "Great Firewall of China", which is the technology.


don't forget the temporary walls of authority ... police lines to separate those of differing views during demonstrations, "protest zones" with their easily moved barriers, etc.


At this stage of our existence on Earth we have to stop separating ourselves economically, politically, ethnically and as a species from all other life so that we can remain here to enjoy Mogmismo's work. Differences can be instructive but walls block our view of how to see past those differences.


I'm sure you also have in mind the visual signifiers of the walls we build to separate us from our own self and from our environment. The alienation that forms the human condition :) It's a wonderful topic, Mogmismo.


Mog - this is brilliant, I am wishing you the best of luck with this project. I am up against the "wall" here at the Hilton who are charging me $7 an/hour for the internet.


In answer to your question - I think the sites themselves would be great - but I am a people person - so I would split my time between the actual site and the people living around the sites... Randy


@kidcounselor, this project is more about what walls do to humanity than the actual physical structure. I would have but a couple shots in the final gallery that were just the wall, it's ~all~ about people and how we engage with each other and how we push each other away with these barriers.


Continued Comment (300 characters, ack!): Take a look at this thread on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/dreamassignment/discuss/72157614684621527/ where we are discussing barriers and humanity in more depth. And thanks for visiting!


The obvious secondary project, of how we react when the walls have been removed would also be fascinating. Good Luck.


interesting idea - you could certainly find some good graffiti on walls (you meant to control me with this wall, but i use it as canvas to get free) and punctured walls and spontaneously erected walls and ...


May I follow you around and tear down the walls after you photograph them?


What about the city walls in Derry, Northern Ireland?

The city has spilled out over them for decades, and now, they're a tourist attraction. It's very odd how they call Derry "The Walled city" when the walls encompass little other than the shopping district.


Very nice concept man, its a project I hope that you pursue even if you don't win this contest. Best of luck to you.



wow, this is a really great topic, mogmismo. like AEllison, I hope you get to explore it regardless (and then share on flickr with us! =D ) it's simultaneously personal..and relevant to everyone


hi mogmismo. i think this is a really compelling topic. and the summary is well put. i hope this happens!


Love the idea...not because of the physical separation, but what walls do to us mentally.


What a great idea, best of luck to you both.


Your topic was so compelling, I was even thinking about it on the way home today - seeing houses with yards near the highway, what I would do if I had kids and I lived there - how I would fence them in.


Fantastic topic: the NI "Peace lines" should go onto the list. Also worth considering non-explicit barriers between communities: a highway that isolates an urban neighbourhood is no less a wall of separation than an international border.

(obPedant: Hadrian's Wall is entirely in England now...)


Thank you all. @hologate: I see your point. My hometown is redirecting it's express-way bypass this year, and it's going to change the community immensely. @prosaicparadise: I'm glad I gave you something to think about. Thanks all.


This is a brilliant idea! I really hope this gets picked, I'd love to see what you come up with.


This is a really great idea. The walls between religions (built by the religious) are particularly relevant at this time. I am sure you would have some great ideas about how to show those walls. Wish you all this best on implementing this project one way or another.


Thanks Cassandra and fmerenda. I'm building a website to promote this idea, and will post the link here later in the week. w/out this dream assignment, I would have to ask for donations (taking 2 months+ off of paying work, yikes!), but I want to make it happen one way or another.


The possibilities are seemingly endless.
How does one obtain space, personal space? And really, isn't that merely a microcosm of what happens on a global level between people?

And the walls within our own minds...
Brilliant idea, and I hope you win, my dear.


I think this is a great idea. Remember that some walls are invisible. You should take pictures of someone in a business suit sitting in a Lamborghini parked under a bridge next to a homeless person sleeping.


This is a very creative idea. Some walls are built to keep people out, some are erected to keep people in, and others are merely symbolic. They are all meant to separate us in some way, and promote an us versus them mentality.


Walls!! Bring down all walls!!

Excellent idea for your dream shoot! I hope you win.


Thanks nearing, fpscott, billguz, & superjfly for your votes. I'm glad you like the idea of using photography to bring down walls and bring people together. I appreciate your support. Invisible walls and global spaces. Great input.


beautiful idea.


beautiful idea.


Great idea, best of luck!


this is a very original and worthwhile idea.

good luck


Thanks all! I've just posted a new website where you can keep up with the details of my project: http://breachthewall.com. Take a look and please, spread the word.


It's definitely a great idea, but... (someone's gotta be contrary :) Maybe a little too B/W. Can't some walls be good? It's 20F outside and I'm in shorts & a t-shirt because of walls. Victims of disaster or war -- Gaza, Aceh -- long for walls. Isn't shelter -- walls -- a basic human need?


I like the idea... and I think there's be room for nuances, showing also how walls can be, say, decorative or capable of providing relative shelter.


You should also shoot at Auschwitz or Treblinka. Minimal walls (barbed wire primarily), it shows the separation of people for all the wrong reasons, as well as separating the truth of the nature of the Nazi regime from the rest of the world until the walls were breached.


Bravo! Love your project idea and sure you will do a fantastic job. I don't agree with some of the suggestions -- obvious and overdone imho -- but I'm sure you will approach this with your usual very high level of creativity.


wish this was my idea ;)


You should probably also consider prisons. They are where the majority of walls are used.


hmm. Harvey Wallbanger. Picture.
but walls are also there to PROTECT us. i want a wall between myself and Hannibal Lecter. That's not so much out of 'fear' as it is ..... safety. ?


Hey all! Thanks for all the votes and comments! I love the discussion going on here. (And return visitors, too!) Please take a second to check out the new website: http://breachthewall.com. You can "email to friends" and join my mailing list. Thanks All!


I think it's certainly true that some walls are helpful...I appreciate the somewhat sketchy shelter my house walls give in the winter. The problem isn't so much the walls, themselves, but what they come to represent in our minds. "The Other" is never really that different.


The walls of prisons serve the purpose every day of letting us think we are terribly different from "criminals", when in fact many of them are inside for things we would have done, under the right circumstances.


Even in extreme cases (like Lecter), they let us stop thinking about what we need to change as a culture, substituting dismissal of The Other for real conscious action. (wow, I hate character limits!)


This is really excellent- everyone says they want world peace, but no one ever has a "plan". I am a NY native, take care of the ones with grafiti first : )
They say more than you can see.


very sentimental.



Thanks all for your vote. Just got a bump from a blogger, read what Claus Jacobsen has to say about my entry: http://claus-jacobsen.blogspot.com/2009/03/documenting-walls.html Thanks Claus!


And he found a great (older) picture I took with walls. The image is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mogmismo/2426451487/ in my flickr stream.


Great idea!


you're right Celestina, it is still a separation/detachment from the "other", and an easy way for people to deal with a difference. Even if it is someone who thinks it's ok to eat other people's brains or feed it to themselves.


Cool project! Good luck :)
Thanks Tracie for letting me know!


coooooooolio ...


Great idea,

Let's shine the light on this very human predilection of building walls to separate ourselves...


Thanks minnecolts, LaeF1, Baghy, chickypea and hamid4nyc! There is a new facebook group, if you want to follow me that way: "I'm sending Michael on his Dream Assignment" -> http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=69916194814


cool idea, mine is to help others by bringing awareness and unity for non-profits worldwide: http://www.nameyourdreamassignment.com/the-ideas/jenmay/unity-through-community/


Thanks all for your votes.

Big News: We are filming a youtube introduction to the project today. I'll have video up in 3 or 4 days!

We are up to 54 on members of the Facebook group! Take a second and join http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=69916194814


really cool idea!!!


Good luck with the project. It's both artistically intriguing and noble at the same time.

And the physicality of walls means that -- from a photographic standpoint -- there are innumerable compositional possibilities: texture, perspective, colour.

What a great idea!


Thanks all of you supporting me here. You can now let us know which walls/barriers most interest you on by visiting the site, http://breachthewall.com and going to "The Places" Use the "contact me" button to email me about adding a new idea you have!


Go Michael, Go!


Fascinating idea, so many possibilities. I'm looking forward to seeing what you put together.


Celestina wrote a phenomenal blog entry about this project here: http://celestiniosity.com/2009/03/08/a-crazy-idea/ Thanks Celestina!


I rewrote my proposal here (hope you will vote for this one):


nice idea, getting shots of peoples' expressions and reactions when asked about the people on the other side of the wall would be really intriguing.


What a great idea! Each wall tells a story.
Heading to youtube to check out your info there.


Interesting idea. Check out my photo idea too, and good luck!


Walls, as long as they have gates.


Celestina, hope you break down some walls :-)

Cheers, Paddy Ryan


It is a good idea, hope you get to do it!


walls,,,,,,, walls are made to hide behind, we spend to much time hiding from each other, fearing each other and not enough time learning about each other, walls hide hearts and hold ideas at bay, walls hold back emotions and ideas perish behind them never spoken never seen,,,,


Great idea with a multitude of possibility...

Sending out good vibes to you...and my vote.


Good luck.


Hopefully you'll find a way to add Wall Street to the list, so when you win I can tour you around the Big Apple too. There is a real sea wall that you can photograph, which did help to make Lower Manhattan into stable ground. What irony, eh? :~)


Walls r a tangible manifestation of fear (keep in what we have, out what we dread). Even beautiful walls reflect this purpose. So go, show us these Barriers Built! Capture both their Beauty & Truth. Let us Learn (as Reggio did in the "Qatsi" trilogy) a Truth about ourSelves & our Walls.


great meeting you at jack of the wood! best of luck!


That truly is a world wide project with soem very serious implications. The "concrete" nature of the fences can be influenced by the technology level of the dichotomous groups. Good luck with it. A dad speaks....


This is wonderful and original. Good luck! Please check out my idea and toss me a vote :)


i like a lot this project, good luck


What a great idea!


Thanks all who have posted here! We've got a new video about the project, take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ud3WaOMa4s


I love this idea! check out mine and Pic it if youd like! Congo here I come...


Good idea and good luck!


Great project.


Nice work on the video. Good luck!


like the idea, voted for you
good luck


I cherish my chance encounters around the world. We met briefly in Asheville.This Quest of yours IS the best idea. How could we, in this time of conflict and terror, not see the essential value of unlocking our doors, removing the walls, and clearly seeing each other?


great idea. i found you on flickr and you seem sincere in your video. hopefully this will show us all how futile these walls all. unfortunately, the people who make and instigate these walls probably do not care. how can we change this?


When I read about your project, I initially thought of the lyric 'Put up a fence to keep me out, or to keep mother nature in' but it is clear, based on the comments, that you have all gone WAY past that idea in your thinking. Good Luck!!


I'm lauhal's mom and I've voted for your wonderful project. Best of luck to you.


Bring it!!


I love this idea. There´s nothing more toxic than the sense of alienation that haunts the individual in our industrialized, segregated world. I like the idea of the wall as a symbol for that, and I also think it has incredible aesthetic potential. Can´t wait to see what you come up with.


you are almost there in the top 20, I will give you a vote, like your idea, saw it on the flickr group, few more you will be there.


The Berlin Wall fell. Down with all walls.


This is a really fine idea! So much potential. I'm lauhal's cousin and I found out about this project from her. Good luck. This is a deserving project.


clever...please vote for mine too!


good idea! gave you a vote


Good Luck! May all the worlds walls come down and we live in peace!


Though I believe some walls are necessary (as are personal boundaries), I applaud the concept.


Wish you the best.. I personally do not like walls.


Good luck with this project, it covers all sorts of political, social, language and tech barriers. Zen Sutherland mentioned technology walls? Are you familiar with the 'Kryptos Puzzle' wall? Cryptography in a computer age is a modern version of 'Hadrian's Wall' or China's 'Great Wall'.


Mike ~ I have a vision and you can be part of this vision; I have a plan and you can be part of the plan. The time for action is here and you have to make some important decisions as it relates to you dream project. If you want more information, then let me know. -Ray M.


424!! Woot Great job!! I just PIC'd you! Please stop by mine and PIC me too! Good Luck with your dream!!


Keep the faith! You have done a lot of work on this and have exhibited nothing but the graciousness of a gentleman. You deserve consideration by the judges.


Great Idea!


I hope you win- I would love to see the finished product! Best of luck- truly a wonderful idea.


Brilliant idea. I used to live near the Mexican border, and the last thing we need is a wall. Good luck!


My favorite aspect of your idea is that it is at once specific and universal. Your project is unique because it addresses a fundamental characteristic of human civilization: you strive to raise awareness not for one single cause, but for a deeply human flaw from which many of our problems arise.


I know that when you carry out this project, your works will resonate with your audience and perhaps open some eyes to the danger, and ultimately the futility, of raising barriers against our fellow humans.

And...yeah. I just really, really hope you win!!


It's a wonderful idea, best of luck!


terrific idea, hope you will also vote for other project ideas that share this viewpoint....

i.e., Afghanistan, Laos, etc.


Good Luck with you great plans.


Hope you get to go on this adventure!!


I read through a lot of the other ideas for photo assignments and some were good, but this is brilliant. It's engaging, builds a sense of unity, helps to bridge boundaries- all of these things are worthy of backing.The sheer largess of spirit is a damn fine photo journalist in the making.