In my photo series, “Barriers,” I trained my lens inward to create a portrait not of an individual but of our country, using mythical and actual history to explore metaphorical barriers.

I chose to use an authentic Native American tepee as the backdrop for every photo in this series. Used by nomadic North American Plains Indians, first as a temporary dwelling and then later as a year-round home, I use it here as a representation for those seeking a new home—a place to be free—in a climate where barriers of every nature stand in their way. 

I employ the canvas, folds, poles and openings of the tepee to create a metaphorical barrier for the viewer to face head-on. The structure suggests the cultural, gender-based, interpersonal and emotional barriers encompassed under the umbrella of immigration. I am attempting to visualize the past as it repeats itself in the here and now. 

The performative nature of this project, the objects I chose, the use of shadows and sunlight, the placement of my family, the flags, chains, bones, shells and fruit build the narrative. These elements are on one side of the barrier, helping to transport the images into the domain of the surreal.

We have become a nation obsessed with barriers—what to call them (walls, fences, slats?), whether to build them and why.  

Barriers are erected to prevent people and ideas from moving freely, to establish divisions and to legitimize separateness. The erection of barriers reveals latent fears and anxieties, uncovering our vulnerabilities for the world to see. 

The true power of a barrier derives from the idea of security they offer. As I considered this distinction, I came to realize barriers satisfy a mental need more than a physical one. Unwittingly or not, we build them to shield us from the fear that resides inside us not from unknown individuals outside.

My intent is for these images to be seen large—at least 36 x 24, so the viewer can become immersed in the experience.