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Jennifer Hardy, 37, inked her hand as an 83-year-old friend watched, in an effort to call for dignity and respect for seniors.

Cory Price, 41, signed "I love you" with his hand and asked that everyone be treated equally — whether gay or straight.

Jentry Hood, 32, and her daughters, Jennica, 11, and Jade, 9, each posed for a photo separately. Hood wanted each girl to know she is as "powerful as anybody else in this world."

All held up one hand with the message, "I am equal," and smiled for the camera.

The Salt Lake City-based "I Am Equal" project has kicked off a world tour that aims to collect 125,000 photos of people, each with their own message about human rights. The campaign, which began in Sacramento, Calif., last month, shot photos of more than 300 people Saturday at the Salt Lake City Sheraton Hotel.

Participants are encouraged to share their photos on Facebook and other digital venues and start conversations about equality.

"Any social change starts from the individual, and it always starts with the individual recognizing their personal value and worth and stepping up," said project creator Jason Beckett. "Even what we're seeing in Egypt right now [with widespread protests] is really about those people recognizing that they are valued … and they deserve to be treated differently than their government has treated them for 30 years."

Depending on the person, Beckett said, the "I am equal" message can apply to a range of issues, including immigration reform, domestic violence, environmental protection and gay marriage.

"The whole project was built from wanting to eliminate apathy," he said. "It's a pet peeve of mine when people recognize there's a problem and don't do anything about it. ... The idea was to have a mechanism that would allow people to take a simple action, take a photo."

He predicts each person photographed will talk to at least 10 people in person or online about the picture. So 125,000 participants could engage 1,125,000 in discussions about human rights.

Beckett began testing the idea in Salt Lake City last year — both Mayor Ralph Becker and former Mayor Rocky Anderson have been photographed — but officially launched the campaign in January in Sacramento. He plans to visit 175 cities in the United States, Canada and Europe over the next seven years with fashion photographer and project co-founder Matt Spencer.

Individuals who are photographed are asked to make donations to the I Am Equal Foundation, which funds scholarships for impoverished and at-risk youths. Spencer does not take photos of pairs or groups. You have to pose solo.

"It seemed like a really great way, a peaceful way, to show support for marriage equality," said Jamie Dickinson, a West Jordan mom whose kids, Connor, 5, and Samantha, 11 months, each got their own photo. Dickinson's father came out to her as gay when she was 12. Her parents, who were already divorced, shared custody of her and her sister. She later lived full time with her dad and his partner.

"There's just so much debate about whether or not gays and lesbians should have the right to marry or even raise children. Coming from that upbringing, I'm puzzled by it," Dickinson said. "I had a very loving household."

She brought her kids Saturday, she said, to show them "it's important to show your support for whatever you believe in."

If the photo campaign succeeds, Dickinson and her two children will become three pixels in a giant photo mosaic of the Earth. Beckett expects the finished artwork will be 8,000 square feet and break a world record, and he hopes to display it in Washington, D.C.

About the "I Am Equal" project

Goal • Gather photos of 125,000 people in 175 cities worldwide. Participants, who wear a temporary "I am =" tattoo for the photo, are encouraged to share their snapshots and start conversations about human rights. The photo collection will be part of an 8,000-square-foot collage.

More online • iamequalproject.org

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