Talk of walls and fences has many discouraged in this particular political moment; but for photographer John Raymond Mireles, fences provide an opportunity for connection, not division.
What began as a visual display of his own neighbors (on his own fence) in San Diego, California’s Barrio Logan neighborhood, Mireles’s “Neighbors Project” has grown into a portrait series that features 86 different Americans, from each of the 50 states, hung on fences around the country. Armed with a message of decency and humanity, Mireles embarked on a two-year journey that took him to every state and introduced him to hundreds of characters.
His goal with this work is to facilitate a sense of belonging to a global “neighborhood,” where kindness is universal in spite of any physical separation or difference. “I want to connect people, and to try and get people to identify with their ‘neighbors’—with fellow Americans,” he says. “It’s all about the familiarity. It’s hard to hate somebody or feel animosity towards somebody with familiarity.”
Earlier this summer, the project—in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Art in the Parks—wrapped a show on the East Houston fence in Lower Manhattan. Due to its success, the project is headed on a domestic tour, with its first iteration planned for August 1 in Surprise, Arizona. Here, a look at some of Mireles’s portraits—honest and simple attempts at contributing to the definition of what it means to be “American” in 2018.